An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Coláiste Phádraig CBS
Lucan, County Dublin
Roll number: 60264A
Date of inspection: 25 January 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Phádraig 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 two days during which the inspector visited classrooms, viewed guidance facilities, interacted with students, held discussions with 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.
Guidance is well established in the school and is currently delivered by two guidance counsellors who work closely as a team to plan and deliver Guidance. School management values the contribution that Guidance makes to students and to the whole-school community. The guidance team liaises with the main feeder primary schools and also meets with parents to support students’ transition to post primary.
An allocation of twenty-four ex-quota hours is currently provided by the Department of Education and Science for Guidance in the school. This allocation will soon rise to twenty-eight hours due to the increase in student numbers. It is recommended that management ensure that the increased allocation for Guidance is fully used to meet the needs of all students.
A variety of modes are used to deliver Guidance. These include one-to-one, group and classroom sessions, guest speakers, visits to third-level and further education colleges, careers events, mock interviews and meetings with parents. However, timetabling for Guidance currently reflects an imbalance of provision between junior and senior cycles and between group and one-to-one sessions. This should be addressed. The aims in the guidance plan state the importance of maximising contacts between Guidance and the highest number of students possible from the time they enter the school. It is therefore recommended that timetabling for Guidance be reviewed to include more group sessions for students in junior cycle. As the time available for Guidance is limited, some consideration should be given to the adoption of a modular approach for guidance delivery based on carefully selected guidance themes for each year group, and in co-operation with Religious Education (RE) and Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) programmes.
As Guidance is provided as an integrated model with counselling, all students have access to one-to-one counselling support to discuss personal issues when required. This is to be commended as it provides valuable individual assistance for students. However, although the school is providing good care for students and there is a year head and a voluntary tutor system, there is no formalised or comprehensively planned student-support structure to identify and assist students who require individual supports, to liaise directly with homes or to plan targeted interventions when required. As the guidance service is now expanding to meet the needs of an ever-increasing student cohort, it is recommended that the establishment of a student-support team should be considered immediately to assist and support the development of a full range of student services. The current provision of personal counselling would then be more fully integrated within a much wider whole-school, student-support system.
Facilities for Guidance in the school are excellent and the management is to be commended for the way that Guidance has been resourced. A dedicated guidance suite of rooms is provided. This includes a dedicated office for Guidance which is very accessible to students and parents and a very well equipped adjacent resource room with information communications technology (ICT). Each room is suitably equipped with ICT, storage and display areas and full broadband access. The resource room is adequately furnished to accommodate small group sessions, contains the careers’ library and has a number of computers for students to use to independently research college and career websites. The most accurate and up-to-date information about college courses is now available on the world wide web. To further expand use of this information engine it is recommended that a few additional laptop computers be added to facilitate a greater number of senior students to work on guidance assignments in this area. It was also noted during the inspection that broadband, although fully available, is very slow and this hinders the completion of tasks set for students. Dedicated notice boards for the display of guidance information about college open-days, career events and third-level application requirements are well located in school corridors.
A number of events are arranged each year in the school for parents to support students making transitions. Guidance staff attend these events to make presentations about subject options and to explain the possible career implications of choosing certain programmes, subjects or groups of subjects. This approach is to be commended, as it facilitates parents to discuss all possible options with school staff. To further disseminate information about subject and programme options, it is recommended that a booklet containing all relevant information about subjects and programmes be developed by the school and presented to parents. This should also be placed on the school’s website once it has been developed. This information should be drafted with the support of subject departments and updated regularly in line with school development planning and the range of subject options currently available to students. Students and their parents should also be referred to the module on the Qualifax website www.qualifax.ie entitled, Leaving Cert. and Junior Cert. Subject Choice which provides comprehensive information on the long-term implications of subject choices in junior and senior cycles. In addition, it is suggested that both parents and students should be invited to attend all events arranged by the school to discuss transitions.
The school has a critical incident policy that has been developed with the involvement of the guidance team.
A draft school guidance plan has been developed. This plan contains an outline guidance programme for each year group and school programme, details about visits to college and career events, a list of guest speakers and a summery of the assessment tests and interest inventories administered to students. It is recommended that consultation with the whole-school community be arranged soon to identify the general needs of students in Coláiste Phádraig, and to select areas that require particular targeting. To progress guidance planning speedily in a whole-school context it is further recommended that a small planning group be established immediately to include guidance personnel. This group should consider how Guidance can best contribute to all aspects of educational, personal and career development of students and how linkages can be forged between Guidance and all school programmes. This dialogue and consultation should ideally take place during this academic year and the process model developed should be used to inform whole-school guidance planning.
When re-drafted, the whole-school guidance plan should include aims and objectives that are fully in accord with the school’s own mission statement, vision for the future and the priorities selected for development. The guidance programmes should include more detail about the topics to be covered term-by-term, all links with school programmes and outside agencies, goals agreed for the achievement of short-term and long-term objectives, clear learning outcomes for each year’s programme and copies of all relevant school policies. The guidance team, through engaging in drafting the current guidance plan, has identified some areas for future development in Guidance. This is commendable but should be revisited once the consultation has been completed and the next version of the whole-school guidance plan has been drafted. Further assistance with completing the guidance plan can be accessed from the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) www.slss.ie and the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). A template for drafting the guidance plan can be downloaded from the Department of Education and Science website www.education.ie. Two documents may also be consulted, Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004) www.ncge.ie, and Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the implications of Section 9(c) of Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance (DES 2005) www.education.ie. It is recommended that, at the end of this academic year, the amended school guidance plan be presented to staff, parents and students for consultation and then to the board of management. This plan should be monitored closely and revised annually.
The guidance programmes for junior cycle provide details of planned interventions for students and topics to be covered. Beginning even before they enter the school, students are visited by guidance staff in their primary schools and their learning and other needs are assessed. However, as the school now has a special education department even closer links with primary schools are recommended to support students’ successful transitions to post primary. To promote this close contact with primary schools, sixth-class teachers could be invited to the school during their pupils’ first year to discuss individual progress and provide even more continuity of care for students.
The current guidance plan for first-year classes lists the range of contacts that are established with in-coming students. As already stated, it is suggested that both pupils and parents should be invited to attend all meetings organised by the school to aid this vital initial transition. During first year students meet with the guidance counsellor who visits classes and provides support for learning and one-to-one guidance and counselling support where it are required. It is recommended that closer links be established between Guidance and RE and SPHE programmes when planning student supports for all junior cycle students.
There are currently too few structured guidance inputs included in the draft programme for second-year classes. This gap needs to be addressed and more career themes could be introduced to groups in co-operation with SPHE. Third-year classes have guidance support to address a range of educational issues, and to assist with decision making about programme and subject options for senior cycle. However, although good assistance is being supplied to students to develop viable study skills and to make subject choices, not enough attention is currently included to assist with the development of individually clear perspectives about the world-of-work and the exploration of personal interests. It is therefore recommended that the existing guidance programmes should be augmented by the inclusion of a number of vocational topics. These should be delivered using individual and group investigation methodologies and ICT. This early exploration of careers and personal interests and the sharing by students of information in groups should facilitate them to make more informed decisions when selecting school programmes and subject options for senior cycle.
Guidance presently concentrates a major amount of effort on providing a comprehensive range of supports for students in senior cycle. Good quality assistance is provided for students and their parents to make all important transitions and avail fully of all the opportunities provided by the school. They can access one-to-one support and formal and informal group sessions are timetabled and arranged. The school actively encourages students to take Transition Year (TY), and a varied programme of inputs and opportunities are provided for students. TY is well supported by Guidance and a wide range of well-chosen themes, supports and opportunities are provided in co-operation with the TY team. However, the aims and objectives for this important and developmental year are not currently included in the guidance programme. It is recommended that this be redressed through holding a school consultation and the redrafting of the whole-school guidance plan. Work experience is very well supported by Guidance. In addition students are encouraged to explore a very comprehensive range of career and third-level opportunities, apprenticeship training and post Leaving Certificate courses. Guest speakers are invited to address students and mock interview sessions are arranged with the support of parents, staff and past pupils. Students who choose the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) receive quality support to complete career investigation tasks and to take maximum advantage of work experience. Throughout senior cycle, students are well supported to develop and fulfil individual career paths based on interests and talents. To identify areas for future development it is recommended that the guidance programmes for all senior cycle be evaluated by both staff and students on a regular basis.
All students have good access to information and communication technology (ICT) in the guidance resource room and the school’s ICT rooms. Students wishing to make the transition to third-level education receive good assistance to explore viable options and to make applications on line to the Central Applications Office (CAO) www.cao.ie for entry to universities and colleges in Ireland, and the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) www.ucas.com for application to third-level institutions in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Those choosing other routes to Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and to FÁS apprenticeships are also facilitated in every way to make appropriate choices. Parents are kept fully informed at parents’ events and through one-to-one meetings with staff.
Very regular contact is maintained with management who are very supportive of Guidance. The referral of students for support within the school operates efficiently. The referral of students to outside agencies such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for extra assistance is handled sensitively and effectively.
The guidance team are well supported by the school to engage in all available CPD opportunities and to attend personal counselling supervision.
In the course of the subject inspection, one scheduled fifth-year Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) class was visited. The topic chosen for the lesson was highly appropriate and was well delivered throughout the session. Students were asked to prepare materials for a careers exhibition as a task for assessment in LCA.
The methodologies selected to present and develop this topic were well chosen and appropriate to the age and developmental level of the students. Good advance planning for the class was in evidence and viable learning objectives were established from the outset with students. The lesson was well introduced and contributions by students were invited and built upon in the discussions that ensued. Targeted questioning of students was deployed effectively to elicit good responses. Good brainstorming of the topic from the beginning of the session was used effectively to engage all in the discussions. In addition, good use was made of the ICT in the room. Informative support materials had been developed and were supplied to facilitate students to individually research relevant materials for a careers exhibition.
Throughout the session, students were actively engaged in learning, demonstrated good understanding, displayed very competent communication skills and contributed fully to the discussions. Of particular note was the way that each student could explain clearly the career choices that they were exploring, and the plans they were making to achieve these aims. Very good rapport between staff and students facilitated free and interesting dialogue to take place. Excellent classroom management and the use of available time were in evidence throughout the session.
Appropriate use is being made of suitable assessment modes, tests and other instruments to assess students’ learning and individuals’ needs. The guidance team co-operates with other schools locally to share expertise about testing. This approach is to be commended. In Guidance students are well assisted to explore individual aptitudes and to plan suitable career paths. The school guidance plan documents the range of tests administered and interest inventories. The suitability of tests is reviewed regularly within the school. However, as new tests are now available, it is suggested that the selection of some new aptitude instruments should be explored. It is advised that reference should be made to the Circular Letter 0099/2007 on testing, which has been issued to schools and is available at www.education.ie, in the list of circulars, to assist with the selection of tests for Guidance, learning support and special education. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) is administered annually to all students in TY and they receive individual feedback on their results. This is being used effectively to assist students to make subject and programme choices in senior cycle. Other aptitude tests and interest inventories are selected and administered to meet particular students’ needs. In addition, full use is made of the Qualifax website www.qualifax.ie to facilitate students to explore third-level and further education and training options.
The guidance team is currently heavily involved in the initial assessment of students enrolling in the school, to assess their learning needs. As the school now has learning support and a special education department, the purpose and kind of assessments being administered should be reviewed to take full account of the school’s policies on assessment and enrolment.
Good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students are maintained and all follow-up actions to be taken are fully minuted. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support on an ongoing basis. All meetings held with staff and management are recorded. The initial destinations of all students leaving the school are not currently being mapped annually. It is recommended that this be arranged to inform school and guidance planning.
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 counsellors 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 2008