An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Carrickmacross, County Monaghan
Roll number: 72180K
Date of inspection: 20 November 2009
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Inver College, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan 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 one day during which the inspector interacted with students, held discussions with the 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.
All of the junior and senior cycle curriculum programmes are offered in Inver College. The school has high expectations for all of its students and each student is encouraged to maximise his/her potential. To achieve this, the school management is committed to the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum coupled with an inclusive, caring and supportive environment. Guidance is considered to be an integral element of the educational support structures offered by the school. All of this is commended.
Inver College receives thirty-three ex-quota hours per week from the Department of Education and Science for Guidance. Two qualified guidance counsellors are allocated 31.5 of these hours to deliver the guidance programme. Schools are expected to allocate all of the ex-quota hours received for Guidance for that purpose.
The National Behaviour Support Service (NBSS) is working with the school and, as one of the supports in place under this initiative, a counselling psychologist comes to the school for three days per week to undertake counselling with students. The guidance counsellors link closely with the personnel assigned to NBSS work in the school.
Both guidance counsellors are members of the school’s care team which is co-facilitated by one of the guidance counsellors and the positive behaviour liaison (PBL) co-ordinator. Other members of the care team include the principal, the school completion officer, the Transition Year (TY) co-ordinator, the counselling psychologist and two of the year heads. The position of home, school, community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator has been vacant since the retirement of the previous co-ordinator in September 2009. However, the position was filled in the week of the inspection with the appointment of one of the guidance counsellors. It is envisaged that the new HSCL co-ordinator will remain on the care team in the new role. The care team meets formally every two weeks. Each class in the school has an assigned tutor who meets with the class group every morning. Tutors are considered to be a key link in the care system of the school as they are well positioned to identify quickly any student who may require additional supports or referral to the care team or both. There is also a behaviour strategy team in the school and one of the guidance counsellors is a member of this team. Overall, the support structures in place to cater for the personal needs of students are commended.
Guidance classes are timetabled for Transition Year (TY) and for sixth-year classes. Classes are timetabled for fifth-year classes on a modular basis. Guidance classes are delivered to first-year and to third-year classes by arrangement with other teachers. The guidance programme for second-year students is limited and is delivered mainly by Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) teachers. Most of the guidance programme is delivered on a one-to-one basis and involves a lot of personal counselling. It is recommended that these arrangements be reviewed to enable all students in all year groups to be provided with classes in Guidance. The objectives of the programme for second-year students should be to assist them in learning about themselves; their aptitudes, qualities, learning styles and interests and to assist them in developing self-management skills. Formal collaboration with the SPHE teachers is recommended in order to plan and deliver the overlapping elements of Guidance and SPHE.
Facilities for Guidance are good. Both guidance counsellors have an office, with computer, internet access, telephone, and secure storage facilities. Guidance materials are displayed and stored in the guidance offices as there is no careers library or any other library facility. There are display boards, one in each office and one outside the guidance office in the main school building, for guidance-related notices. It is recommended that consideration be given to the provision of a dedicated room for Guidance as soon as an opportunity arises. College prospectuses and other guidance-related resources and materials which need to be accessed by students could be displayed and made available in the room.
Formal links between the guidance counsellors and management take place through the care team meetings and the strategy team meetings. In addition, regular informal meetings take place on an ongoing basis. Referrals to the guidance counsellors are made by teachers either verbally or through a referral form which is available in the staff room. Parents may also make an appointment with the guidance counsellors to discuss any issues they have concerning their sons/daughters, and students may self refer. Group counselling is undertaken whereby students are invited by the guidance counsellors to join a group session. A group of students may also be referred through the referral procedure. Educational and career guidance interviews are available on request to all students. The guidance counsellors encourage a team approach to dealing with students referred whereby class teachers, year heads, management, parents and outside agencies, when relevant, become involved in the students’ counselling programme. Referrals are made, as required, to the psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS); the Health Service Executive (HSE) social workers and counselling service; the Monaghan Youth Federation drop-in centre; The Youth Advocacy Service; and BodyWhys.
Guidance planning is well developed in the school as part of the overall school development planning process. A planning group has been established comprising the two guidance counsellors, the School Completion Programme (SCP) co-ordinator, the principal, and the learning support co-ordinator. The elements of the plan completed to date include the aims and objectives of the school’s guidance programme and details of how the programme is delivered to students. An outline of the programme for each year group is provided, together with details of referral procedures, and the links which have been established with outside bodies and businesses. The setting of targets for completion of each element of the programme for every year group is included and this is good practice. In developing the guidance plan further the following resources are recommended: 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); and the guidance planning template which was prepared by the Department and is available on its website (www.education.ie). The template sets out the steps which the team should follow in the planning process. It is also recommended that representatives of students, parents and the local community be co-opted onto the planning team. The definition of Guidance which is provided in the Inspectorate’s guidelines should be included in the plan. It is also recommended that the supporting documentation; resources used; and relevant school policies should be kept in a separate folder to the plan.
A guidance counsellor assists the SCP co-ordinator in delivering a workshop to sixth-class pupils in the feeder primary schools on the theme of transition from primary to post-primary school. The guidance counsellors administer assessment tests to incoming students and explain their role.
The guidance counsellors meet first-year classes by arrangement with other teachers and they deliver a workshop on friendship, team building and bullying. They explain their role in the school and how students can make an appointment to meet them. All first-year students are met individually to ensure that they are settling into the school. When necessary student are seen individually for personal counselling. A file on each student is set up. First-year students take all, except one, of the optional subjects available. This practice has led to students ultimately choosing subjects for the Junior Certificate on the basis of their aptitude for and interest in them. One of the outcomes of this has been a change in the common practice of students opting for traditional gender stereotyped subjects. In the current second-year, over twenty per cent of boys are taking Home Economics and over forty per cent of girls are taking Materials Technology (Wood). The school is commended for providing students with opportunities to experience subjects before making choices and for encouraging them to base their choices solely on aptitude and interest. Students are assisted in making their choices for the Junior Certificate at the end of first-year.
The guidance programme for second-year students is limited and covers mainly social and personal development delivered in SPHE classes. Second year is an important one for students as many decisions are made during that year, some of which can have long-term consequences. Second-year students may have to decide on the level at which to take specific subjects for the Junior Certificate. Research shows that it is also the year when students are at risk of becoming disaffected with school and losing motivation. It is recommended therefore that a module in Guidance should be implemented in second year. The objectives of the module should be provide opportunities and activities to assist students to learn more about their individual strengths, qualities and interests and to begin the process of linking these to their future education, training and choice of career. The exemplar lessons contained in the module Guidance for second-year students which are included in the resource eQuality Measures should be considered in the context of planning a guidance programme for second-year students. Copies of this resource have been circulated to all post-primary schools.
The third-year guidance programme includes study skills, preparation for examinations, motivation and planning revision. Students going directly into fifth year undertake aptitude and interest tests and the results of these tests are given to them on a one-to-one basis. Students are provided with information about senior cycle programmes. A representative from Queen’s University Belfast gives a presentation on subject choice. A booklet for students on subject choice for the Leaving Certificate has been prepared by the guidance counsellors. The booklet provides information on the content of each of the optional subjects available and it outlines some of the career areas where the study of each subject would be an advantage. The booklet also contains information about the subject groupings in the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP); information about the points system; and other relevant information about subject choice, including information about the Qualifax website. This is an excellent resource for students and their parents. At an information night for the parents, a PowerPoint presentation on subject choice is made by one of the guidance counsellors. The presentation includes information on the importance of subject choice; subject requirements for certain third-level courses; and the subjects that need to be taken at higher level for certain third-level courses. The presentation also provides an explanation of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) and on Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Overall, the third-year programme provides students with all the relevant information they require to make good senior cycle choices.
There are currently thirty students taking the TY programme. There is one class of Guidance per week for TY students. The programme focuses on preparation for the world of work. Students are assisted in identifying their skills and qualities; they write up a personal profile; they use relevant websites to access information about courses and careers; they undertake interest tests and prepare to undertake a career investigation as part of a group project. A workbook is used to prepare the students for their work experience placements. The workbook also includes exercises to be completed by the students after the placements so that they can identify the learning outcomes for themselves. The exercises contained in the workbook are very relevant and the whole process is commended as good practice. Students undertake aptitude tests and get feedback on the results on a one-to-one basis.
The school promotes the take-up by students of science and technology subjects. In the current year Agricultural Science has been introduced to senior cycle curriculum. All junior cycle students take Science for the Junior Certificate. The school participates in the STEPS to engineering programme. In this context it was noted that thirty per cent of the girls in the current fifth year are taking Engineering for the Leaving Certificate. Students attend a number of science events and TY students enter the Young Scientist competition. The school is commended for promoting science, engineering and technology (SET) subjects for all students.
Students following the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme have one class of Guidance per week. This guidance module which is a mandatory element of the programme is delivered by a guidance counsellor.
The guidance programme is delivered to fifth-year students on a modular basis. Each year group is provided with a ten week module. Topics included in the guidance programme include: study skills; the NFQ; the points system; the Central Applications Office (CAO) and Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) systems; PLCs; apprenticeships and training. Information and communications technology (ICT) is used by students to access information on relevant websites. Students undertake interests inventories and complete a career investigation workbook. All fifth-year students have an opportunity to attend a careers event, a college open day and a talk from a third-level college. Students complete a career event preparation and evaluation worksheet as part of these activities. If requested, students may make an appointment to meet a guidance counsellor for educational or career guidance or for personal counselling. The programme is relevant and timely as students have an opportunity to consider all options available to them well in advance of making decisions.
Approximately forty per cent of senior cycle students follow the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The units from the link modules relevant to Guidance are included in the guidance programme for fifth-year LCVP students.
All sixth-year classes have a guidance class per week. The programme builds on the work undertaken in fifth year. Students attend career events, college open days and prepare their applications for CAO; UCAS; for colleges of further education; apprenticeships and other training courses. Information about the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) scheme and about grants and scholarships for third-level education is provided. Students are provided with a calendar of dates whereby certain tasks have to be undertaken and also completed, together with a list of relevant events which will take place in the course of the year. Students are reminded that they will have at least one interview with a guidance counsellor in the course of the year and they are provided with details of the procedures involved around the interview. The guidance counsellors have also prepared PowerPoint presentations; information booklets; and relevant workbooks for students as part of the guidance programme for each year group. All of these are excellent resources for students.
It is school policy that links with all parents be established at an early stage when students enter the school. Parents can make an appointment to meet a guidance counsellor. At an information evening for the parents of first-year students, a guidance counsellor provides information on the role of the guidance counsellors in the school. Presentations are made to parents of third-year and TY students on senior cycle subject and programme choice, study skills and the consequences of early school leaving. A presentation for sixth year parents’ night covering the National Framework of Qualification (NFQ) which includes an explanation of the levels on the framework; information about third level institutions; the CAO and UCAS systems; PLCs; apprenticeships; information on the HEAR scheme; grants; college fees; and estimates of the cost of going to college. One of the guidance counsellors runs a ‘positive parenting’ course which is offered to parents of junior cycle students. The guidance counsellors attend all parent-teacher meetings. The parents’ council organises drugs awareness programmes. This is all good practice.
The school has links with local businesses, third-level institutions, colleges of further education and training bodies. Representatives from local businesses carry out mock interviews for senior cycle students and companies provide sponsorship for the school’s student awards scheme. Links are also established with Barnados and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC).
The guidance counsellors are facilitated by the school to attend continuing professional development (CPD) events. Both attend the counselling supervision programme which is funded by the Department of Education and Science. This is good practice.
Two classes were visited and lessons observed. The first class visited was a sixth-year guidance class. The lesson was conducted in an ICT room. The guidance counsellor used a data projector to give a PowerPoint presentation on the HEAR scheme. The HEAR scheme offers students a chance to get a place on a college or university course on a reduced points basis. The scheme is targeted at students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The presentation set out the conditions of eligibility for the scheme; how the scheme operates; how to make an application; and the colleges that are participating. Questions or any clarifications sought by students were responded to throughout the presentation. When the presentation was complete, students were referred to the HEAR website to carry out a further investigation. The guidance counsellor circulated and answered any questions posed. During this part of the lesson, the inspector circulated and discussed with individual students the decisions they had made about post-school options.
The use of PowerPoint to provide the information was very effective and students engaged throughout. The delivery was sensitive and while questions were invited, the guidance counsellor responded in general terms to avoid any potential embarrassment for individual students. At the end of the lesson a prepared handout, which provided answers to frequently asked questions, was distributed. Students were reminded to discuss the scheme with their parents using the handout or going to the website, to communicate the relevant information to them. The website address was included on the handout.
The second lesson observed was with another sixth-year class. Some students were missing from the class as they were attending a college open day. The lesson was a repeat of the one delivered to the first class visited. The mix of students in the class was different however and they asked more questions and sought clarifications more frequently. The lesson was conducted at a slower pace therefore. The methodologies used were similar to the first lesson and sensitivity was displayed by the guidance counsellor when answering questions. The handout was provided at the end of the class and again, students were reminded about the importance of giving the information to their parents and discussing the scheme with them.
The Cognitive Abilities Test-3rd edition (CAT3) level E is administered to incoming first-year students. The Group Reading Test 2 is administered during first year in addition to the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) 4. The results of these tests are used to identify those students who may require learning support.
The Neale Analysis of Reading Ability (NARA) is administered to second-year students. The need to administer this test to students in second year should be reviewed as students undertake a number of tests in first year for the same purpose.
The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) are administered to third-year students who are going directly into fifth year and to TY students. The results of these tests are used to assist students in making their subject choices for the Leaving Certificate and are referred to in the course of educational and career guidance interviews.
Students undertake a number of interest tests including some that are on websites. Others include, EirQuest, Centigrade, and the Stamford Test.
The WRAT4 is administered to students in all years throughout the school. The purpose for this is not clear in the school’s guidance plan. It is recommended that a clear statement about the purpose of each test used be included in the plan.
The initial destination of students after leaving school is tracked and an analysis of the outcomes is completed. This is good practice.
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 June 2010