National Forum on Guidance - First Meeting 2017

The first meeting of the National Forum on Guidance 2017 was held on Wednesday 5th of April in The Clock Tower, Department of Education and Skills. At The Forum, representatives from a cross section of guidance sectors met to inform further considerations of a data gathering system for guidance which could include schools and the further development of the Adult Guidance database.

The theme of discussions was “Data Gathering in Guidance and for Guidance”.
This theme reflected the “Action Plan for Education 2016” which includes reference to   “strengthening guidance counselling” and particularly Objective 1.1 - Action 10 “DES will work with the NCGE to gather data on how guidance resources are currently allocated in schools...”

The agenda for the day is available to view or download HERE

NCGE represented Ireland and the DES from 2007- 2015 at the European Commission funded European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network (ELPGN).  NCGE was directly involved in the development of guidelines for Member States on policy and systems development in guidance and on the development of quality assurance and evidence base in guidance. 

Opening the Forum meeting Jennifer McKenzie, Director of NCGE, outlined the European context and overarching framework, within which, data gathering in guidance is pivotal. She referred back to three of the ELPGN ‘Tools’ that are designed to help policy-makers and other stakeholders to review existing lifelong guidance provision within their country or region, and to identify issues requiring attention and gaps that need to be filled, drawing from practices in other European countries.

These were: (you can click through on each heading to the ELPGN tool applicable)

Jennifer placed particular emphasis on Guidelines for Policies and Systems development for Lifelong Guidance and in particular ‘Guideline 4’ - Assessing the Effectiveness of Lifelong Guidance Provision.

Assessing effectiveness refers to the collection and analysis of data through research and other means on the usage and effectiveness of lifelong guidance policies, systems and interventions, and their evaluation. Such data collection includes information on outcomes, outputs, processes and inputs in the education, training, employment and social fields.

For Jennifer's full presentation please click HERE

Dr Lucy Hearne, School of Education, University of Limerick addressed the Forum and highlighted;

• the relevancy of data gathering to quality assurance in guidance
• evaluation and the potential impacts within guidance
• evidence based frameworks
• underlying assumptions regarding data gathering in guidance
• evaluation in guidance services; types of data
• a constructivist evaluation framework
• a matrix of outcomes in adult guidance
• further consideration for practice

Following on from her presentation, Lucy took questions from the floor and heard from guidance practitioners of their own experience of the current work environment for their students/clients.  It was expressed that Lucy had given some clarity to the idea of data gathering in guidance particularly from a qualitative perspective.

For Lucy's full presentation please click HERE

NCGE were very pleased to have Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton TD attend and highlight the important role that guidance has in the educational experience. The Minister made particular reference to the importance of data gathering.

NCGE is pleased that The Minister is encouraging further national dialogue on the need for up to date data, both quantitative and qualitative, to inform national policy.

“I welcome the work the NCGE is doing with my Department to seek to examine the impact and usage of the restoration of guidance posts to schools ‘outside of the quota’. It is important that we are able to measure the results and impacts of our actions, to ensure that the best use is being made of public resources committed to this area. There is also an opportunity to learn from best practice.  I note that the theme of the forum today is ‘Data Gathering in Guidance and for Guidance’ and I welcome the shared importance attached to this issue’

He also expressed his understanding that:

"It is important that we start to think about evidence gathering I am equally conscious that those at the coal face worry about the ‘bean counters’ who might impose very rigid measurements on them. In the ideal environment what we are trying to do is to set some core measures that are important in every school or sector but also have the flexibility that people can choose their own measures relevant to their unique setting"

NCGE is pleased that The Minister is encouraging further national dialogue on the need for up to date data, both quantitative and qualitative, to inform national policy.

Andrea Eller, Board of the Swiss Conference of vocational, academic and career counseling directors spoke next. Andrea is both a practitioner, and on a national level, a member of a working group focusing on the development of guidance service quality.  This group recently completing a revision of a guidance statistical data catalogue.

Whereas Lucy’s presentation approached data gathering in a qualitative manner, Andrea gave day to day examples of empirical data gathering in practice that were very well received.

Andrea outlined: 

• the organisational structure of the vocational counselling system in Switzerland
• the role of guidance counsellors and the framework in which they operate
• the approach / structure of data gathering and the type(s) of data sought
• empirical examples of data collected
• the need for constant revision of models and methodologies in gathering

Again, following on from her presentation, Andrea took questions from the floor and clarified aspects in relation to how the Swiss model uses the data to monitor the progress of clients / students. Andrea made sample Excel sheets available demonstrating the format and question types currently in use.

For Andrea's full presentation please click HERE

Facilitated group discussions of those present provided an opportunity for members to reflect on information they had received from the speakers and The Minister. 

Two questions were asked ahead of the group discussion.

These were:

1. How can what you have heard in the presentations inform data gathering systems in guidance?

2. How can guidance data be used to:
a. Inform public perception?
b. Inform policy for guidance locally / regionally / nationally?

In the final discussion, representations were made from each working group and a summary report of the feedback received can be viewed HERE

It was agreed that NCGE will use this information and feedback as part of the basis for discussion with DES and The Minister in the context of developing a data gathering framework under the “Action Plan for Education 2017”.