An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Granard, County Longford
Roll number: 63730S
Date of inspection: 28 September 2007
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Cnoc Mhuire, Granard. 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 visited classrooms, viewed guidance facilities, interacted with students, held discussions with the guidance counsellor 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.
Cnoc Mhuire is a mixed secondary school that caters for students living in the town of Granard and a wide rural hinterland. The school has enjoyed a long involvement with education in the town. There is one adjacent feeder primary school and students also come from up to ten other primary schools in the local areas. It is reported that good contact is being maintained with all of these schools to assist the smooth transfer of students to Cnoc Mhuire.
Due to recent enrolment patterns seventeen ex-quota hours are allocated for Guidance. It is recommended that care should be taken by management to ensure that this allocation is fully utilised to plan and manage the delivery of Guidance throughout the school, and develop new strategies to reach all student groups. Assistance with the planning of guidance supports can be accessed in Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act 1998, relation to students’ access to appropriate guidance at http://www.education.ie/.
Counselling support is available for all students who wish to explore personal concerns or who require one-to-one support with educational or career issues. A strong pastoral-care system has been developed that allows students to establish good contacts with year heads and tutors. These teachers also play a crucial role in assisting students with personal and educational issues. It is reported that staff in the school collaborate very effectively to deliver all necessary individual educational supports where they are required. There is scope therefore within the school to consider the development of a more streamlined whole-school role for Guidance in co-operation with subject departments and the pastoral-care structure. It is further recommended that the creation of a student-support team to include Guidance, year heads, management and religious education personnel would provide an improved, more formal and co-ordinated focus to the planning and delivery of all student supports in the school.
Over a long number of years there has been a heavy emphasis on the provision of Guidance for students in senior cycle, and especially for those planning transitions to third level and further education. The issue of how best to deliver Guidance to all students is now being discussed and addressed through the development of a school guidance plan to address all students’ needs. Presently, Guidance is delivered on a one-to-one basis with occasional classes being held with targeted groups such as third years and sixth years. There is evidence of few formally timetabled classes with groups in this year’s school timetable. While the existing approaches for the delivery of Guidance are undoubtedly meeting many students’ needs, it is recommended that a new look should now be taken at all aspects of the guidance needs of each year group. In particular, the imbalance in existing provision between junior and senior cycles should be addressed by the inclusion of some formal class sessions with groups, so that students from first year onwards can receive more support with subject and career-decision making and the exploration of personal interests. As the time available for Guidance is limited, inputs for junior cycle students should be carefully considered and planned in co-operation with the Social Personal Health Education programme (SPHE), and with all school personnel who provide pastoral or other supports for students.
Management is very supportive of Guidance and is anxious to promote the widest range of supports available for students. However although internal links for the referral of students within the school are well established, those with all relevant outside support agencies such as the National Education Psychological Service (NEPS) should be reviewed and strengthened. Good facilities are provided to support the delivery of Guidance. A dedicated and suitably equipped office with broadband access is provided. An adjoining classroom is available to house the careers’ library. Access to the school’s ICT room is available for guidance sessions. Suitably located notice boards are used to keep students informed about career and other events and applications to third level colleges. Efforts are being made to encourage individual students to explore career and third level options using ICT. More contact with the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) http://www.igc.ie/ is recommended as this body offers professional support, training and advice for guidance personnel working in second level schools. The guidance counsellor has been consulted in the development of the school’s Critical Incident Response Plan.
The guidance plan for the school has been drafted. It outlines suitable aims and objectives and identifies groups for direct guidance provision. The plan is a work in progress and is providing a good framework on which to build a whole-school guidance plan. However, the plan should identify priorities for development in a whole school context. Assistance with guidance planning can be sourced in the document, Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004) which was issued to schools or can be accessed at http://www.ncge.ie/.
The present draft plan outlines guidance provision for each year group and for the TY programme. The guidance programme for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) is however not included in the plan and this should be addressed. A strong feature of the draft plan is the way that the guidance programme for each year group covers educational, vocational and personal guidance. It is recommended however, that the guidance plan should also include linkages with all school programmes and subject departments that provide developmental education. It should also indicate approximate scheduling for inputs of Guidance in each year group’s programme. The amended draft plan should be presented for consultation to management, staff, parents and students during this academic year. When the guidance plan is made available to the wider school community it will clarify the role that Guidance can play in a whole-school context to support learning and students’ personal and career development. The whole-school guidance plan should be accessible to the whole school community and provide a structure to support on-going guidance development. The plan should be reviewed annually to allow for changing circumstances and needs within the school.
Students transferring from primary schools are assisted to complete the transfer successfully. The guidance counsellor facilitates the assessment of students’ needs and liaises with parents and schools. Parents play a vital role in supporting their children to select suitable subject options for first year. In order that parents would have more information about the possible career implications that could arise from selecting these choices, it is recommended that information literature about subject options be developed with support from the guidance department. This would augment the information sessions that are already being held in the school for students and their parents. It is further suggested that all literature provided for parents about subject choices should be detailed and that it should encourage the full participation of boys and girls in subjects that traditionally may have had a particular gender bias or focus. All documentation supplied should also explain the possible implications for careers if particular subjects or groups of subjects are chosen.
In junior cycle, students have access to guidance programmes designed to addresses a range of educational, vocational and personal developmental inputs. However, more details about the selected themes should be inserted in these programmes, and scheduling arrangements for Guidance and links with Physical Education (PE), Religious Education (RE) and SPHE should also be included. Third year students are assisted by the guidance department to make decisions about selecting the Transition Year (TY) programme or progressing directly to the Leaving Certificate. However, more emphasis should be placed within junior cycle guidance programmes on encouraging students to explore a range of personal interests and possible career areas. These activities would better inform students’ subject and programme choices for senior cycle.
The inclusion of formal guidance support is recommended for the TY programme. This programme provides opportunities for students to explore personal interests and document their experiences of the world of work. The guidance department should play a more central role in providing support for work experience, personal development and career investigations. A guidance programme for Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) should also be included in the school guidance plan.
In senior cycle, students are assisted to explore third level courses and career opportunities through one-to-one and group sessions. Some trips to third level colleges are arranged and a panel of outside speakers provide insights into the world of higher education and the world of work. However, as many of the issues associated with career-decision making are applicable to most students and as the time available for Guidance is at a premium, it is recommended that more scheduled timetabled classes should be arranged for fifth year groups. Furthermore, it is recommended that more small-group sessions should be held with sixth years. This would augment the individual guidance sessions already being held with senior cycle students. In addition, the guidance plan for senior cycle classes should document all activities arranged for students such as trips to third level colleges, a list of invited outside speakers and the dates of mock interview sessions. It is noted that parents are involved in arranging the mock interviews in the school. This is to be commended as it demonstrates a way in which parents can get involved in supporting Guidance in the school.
To fully exploit ICT in the school and encourage students to engage in individual exploration of the widest possible range of options, it is recommended that greater use be made of the World Wide Web in planning and delivering guidance lessons that focus upon the exploration of personal career interests and third level education courses. All students should also be encouraged to make applications directly to the Central Applications Office (CAO) on-line at http://www.cao.ie/ and to make even fuller use of the information about third level and further education colleges available in Qualifax http://www.qualifax.ie/ .
In the course of the inspection visit two classes were attended, a sixth year Leaving Certificate class and one third year group. The methodologies selected to present and develop the topics were well chosen and appropriate to the age and developmental level of the students. Good advance planning of the lessons was in evidence and the lessons were well introduced. Support materials were supplied for students and were used effectively to build on lesson planning. However, it is suggested that expected outcomes for learning should be established from the very beginning of lessons to provide a good scaffold for students’ own monitoring of their learning.
All students were actively engaged during the sessions and demonstrated good listening and attention skills. The classroom atmosphere was conducive to good learning. Questioning was used to good effect and responses and ideas were built upon to promote good understanding of the chosen themes. The inclusion of even more active methodologies should be considered to augment questioning, to make lessons less passive for students and to support different styles of learning. It is also suggested, as guidance lessons are not currently timetabled for these groups, that the guidance plan for each year group should be transcribed into the students’ own diaries. This would provide a clearer picture for students of the planned guidance programmes and its wider context for supporting their learning and career planning. More use should be made of the overhead projector during guidance classes to utilise effectively all available time and to support learning.
Classroom management was excellent with students displaying an orderly approach to learning. Follow up of the theme in future sessions was signalled at the end of the lessons. However, tasks to be completed by students based on the handouts supplied could be set to consolidate further learning between the guidance sessions.
Appropriate use is made of assessment tests in the school to assess learning and individual students’ needs. The guidance department plays a crucial role in the initial assessment of students entering the school. The draft school guidance plan documents the range of tests being administered. It is advised that it should also mention the ways that testing outcomes are deployed with students. Therefore, reference should be made by the school to the current Circular Letter 0009/2007 on testing in schools, which is available at http://www.education.ie/. The list of tests that accompany this circular could provide ideas for the selection of new tests to be administered. The introduction of the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) could be a valuable option for students in TY or in fifth year. The results of these tests could provide a good basis of information for individual career interviews with students in senior cycle. The DATS could also be augmented with the selection of some other instruments to further develop students’ interest areas.
Good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students and of all follow-up actions to be taken are maintained. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support. The initial destinations of all students leaving the school are being documented informally. It is recommended that all students’ initial destinations should be mapped to inform school and guidance planning and to raise students’ expectations of achievement. Parents could have a role in assisting this process of collection of information.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The guidance service is long established in Cnoc Mhuire.
· Good facilities are available for Guidance in the school.
· The school has a well integrated and supportive pastoral-care system.
· Guidance support is mainly provided through one-to-one contact with students and occasional classes are arranged with targeted groups.
· Guidance for Transition Year students is delivered directly by the TY team.
· The whole-school guidance plan is being developed.
· Parents support Guidance by arranging mock-interview sessions for students annually.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Good care should be taken by management to ensure that full use is made of all available ex-quota hours for Guidance in line with the needs and priorities identified in the school guidance plan.
· A more whole-school approach to Guidance development for all students should be adopted immediately by management and staff to integrate Guidance fully with all subjects, programmes and student support structures.
· It is recommended that a student-support team to include Guidance, year heads, management and religious education personnel be created to give an improved, more formal and co-ordinated focus to the planning and delivery of all student supports.
· It is recommended that the development of a whole-school plan for Guidance that includes all aspects of student support throughout the school be discussed and advanced immediately. The draft guidance plan should be presented for consultation to management, staff, parents and students and then to the board of management. This plan should be reviewed annually by the whole school community.
· In order to meet the on-going needs of all students it is recommended that more timetabled classes should be scheduled for senior cycle classes, and that even closer contacts should be established between Guidance, student support initiatives and programmes such as Social Personal Health Education to deliver Guidance in junior cycle.
· The Transition Year programme should include formal guidance inputs to encourage students to explore a wide range of personal career interests and the world of work. It is recommended therefore that structured guidance support be arranged in consultation with the TY team.
· Advice and information documentation about subject options and the possible career implications of making particular subject and programme choices should be developed by the school for parents.
· It is recommended that every effort be made to further encourage students to fully exploit available ICT to explore a wide range of personal career interests and third level opportunities and to make applications for college places to the Central Applications Office (CAO) on-line.
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 June 2008