Pupils 'don't get enough help on subject choices'
PARENTS and students in many second-level schools believe they do not get enough advice when it comes to choosing the right subjects.
Almost one in three parents and one in four students say they did not get the necessary support from the school or teachers.
It puts students at risk of making poor choices – not selecting the subjects to which they are best suited or that they will need for college entry, or studying subjects at the wrong level.
Poor communication with parents was identified as a weakness in many post-primary schools, according to a report from the Department of Education's chief inspector Harold Hislop.
The chief inspector's report 2010-12 is the first one to include the finding of surveys of thousands of parents and students, which are conducted now as part of a Whole School Evaluation (WSE).
Another crucial area where parents had less than positive views was about how schools dealt with bullying.
The bullying findings, which were released earlier this year, show that only 68pc of parents and 71pc of students agreed that the school dealt well with the problem. Another 24pc of parents replied, "don't know" to this question.
The department recently rolled out an anti-bullying action plan, including new in-school reporting procedures and information meetings for parents, which, it is hoped, will address any concerns.
According to the report, parents are generally satisfied with the management of post-primary schools, with 91pc agreeing that their school is well run.
However, communication with parents emerged as a weak area across many schools.
Schools are generally successful in informing parents about codes of behaviour, students' progress and arrangements for parent-teacher meetings.
But there was a need to improve the information that they give to parents in relation to subject and curriculum choice, it found.
Only 61pc of parents – and 58pc of students – agreed that they received helpful advice from the school or teacher when it came to selecting subjects.
As many as 29pc of parents and 25pc of students said they did not get the advice they needed, while 10pc of parents and 17pc of students replied, "don't know" to that question.
Weaknesses in relation to assisting students with subject choice came before cuts to guidance counselling provision in schools, which is likely to have made the situation worse.
Parents were also asked about communications from the school relating to school matters and about how well the parents' association kept them informed about its work.
Only 44pc agreed that the school regularly sought their views on school matters and 32pc said it did not; while 51pc said the parents' association kept them informed, compared with 28pc who disagreed.
Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) general secretary Pat King said the report demonstrated that second-level teachers and schools worked in a transparent and accountable manner.
He said that some of the "weaknesses" corresponded directly to areas affected by the education cuts, including access to career-guidance services, the leadership capacity of schools and pastoral care structures in schools.