The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This large primary school was formed by the amalgamation of an infant and junior school in October 2005 and operates on two sites. Plans for the new school have been delayed. It serves an area within which families face some social and economic disadvantage. The proportion of families entitled to free school meals is higher than average. About a sixth of pupils are learning English as an additional language but only a tiny number are at an early stage of learning English. Several minority ethnic groups are represented amongst the pupils and there are a few children from traveller communities. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities is above average. Mobility amongst pupils is above average. Children's attainment when they start in the Nursery is well below average.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Barcroft Primary School provides a good education for its pupils and prepares them well for the future. Determined leadership by the headteacher has meant that the school has successfully weathered the challenges involved in amalgamation. Good teaching leads to pupils' good achievement. Standards are average by the time pupils leave the school. Progress is good for all ages and groups of pupils. Children get off to a good start in the Foundation Stage and build a firm platform for future learning. They gain a strong sense of confidence and independence. The staff are a talented team who readily take on new ideas. Their success in adapting teaching has meant that pupils at all stages do particularly well in mathematics and writing. Pupils' progress in reading lags behind these areas in Years 1 and 2. While teaching ensures that children have a very thorough knowledge of how different letters combine to make certain sounds, children's understanding of what they read is not checked as thoroughly as it should be. The quality of teachers' marking is inconsistent through the school and does not always ensure that pupils fully understand what they need to do to improve their work. Pupils of all ages with learning difficulties or disabilities benefit from good support and make good progress towards their targets.
Pupils are proud of their school and are brimming with enthusiasm for learning. This is because teachers are imaginative in their approach and make lessons varied and enjoyable. Staff know the pupils well and give them a good level of care, guidance and support to help them to overcome problems in their daily lives. Consequently, pupils trust adults and feel safe. Pupils' personal development and their well-being are good. Their good behaviour and relationships go a long way to creating the school's happy atmosphere. The good curriculum makes the most of pupils' talents in art and design, drama, sport and music. There are many exciting extra activities that pupils enjoy taking part in but opportunities for Foundation Stage children to learn through outdoor play are limited by the school's facilities.
Good leadership and management have ensured that the school keeps a close eye on how well it is doing. Good self-evaluation means that the school knows its priorities and how to achieve them. Its track record in improving pupils' achievement in writing and mathematics shows its good capacity to bring about change for the better. The school has not allowed the fact that it operates on two sites to stand in the way of a single approach to its work. The governors provide sound support. Good links with parents and other schools, as well as health services, are used to boost pupils' sense of well-being.
What the school should do to improve further
Achievement and standards
The average standards reached by the time pupils leave the school represent good achievement from their starting points. Children in the Foundation Stage make good progress, even though most do not reach the expectations for their age by the time they start in Year 1. They gain confidence in learning and build skills in literacy and numeracy at a good rate. Standards are below average by the end of Year 2, but again, good progress is evident. Pupils who join the school late and the few from traveller communities do as well as others. Throughout the school, pupils make particularly good progress in writing and mathematics, reflecting the school's initiatives to boost achievement in these areas. Pupils make better progress in reading in Years 3 to 6 than in Years 1 and 2. This is because pupils' understanding of what they read is thoroughly checked in the older year groups. Good progress is made throughout the school by pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities because of well focused teaching. Some pupils with very specific needs make very rapid progress. The few pupils who are learning English as an additional language make good progress because their needs are taken into account. There is some good quality work in art and design and music, as well as in drama, reflecting the school's mission to provide a broad range of learning experiences for its pupils.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils are well prepared for the future because of their sound skills in literacy and their capacity to work together. Their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good and they develop a strong sense of responsibility. The school council decides how to spend its budget to benefit pupils and raises money through events to provide extra resources. Pupils trained as prefects take their role seriously and provide good support for others. The youngest children develop very positive attitudes to learning because they meet with success. Pupils are proud of their school and their excellent enjoyment of school is reflected in their thirst for learning, their relationships and sense of community. As one pupil put it, 'It's easy to make new friends here, because we work with different people all the time and everyone helps us.' Pupils' attendance is average but affected by pockets of low attendance that the school works closely with families to resolve. Behaviour is good and pupils are polite and respectful to each other and adults. They know how to keep healthy by eating a balanced diet and keep fit through being active. Pupils relish competitive sport but say that taking part is as important as winning.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teachers have high hopes for pupils. Pupils like their teachers and say that 'teachers put themselves out for us'. Teaching in the Foundation Stage successfully builds children's confidence and early skills in literacy and numeracy. Imaginative teaching captures pupils' interest and ensures that lessons are enjoyable. Pupils are eager to get started on work and to see it through. Teachers take good account of different abilities and the ways in which pupils learn. Support for pupils from traveller communties is effective. Teachers plan particularly challenging work in mathematics and writing consequently pupils' learning is faster in these areas. The precise teaching of how the sounds of letters combine means that pupils quickly learn to recognise words. Marking does not always give pupils a clear indication of what they need to do next to improve their work. Inconsistencies in providing clear guidance through marking means that some pupils are unsure of how to enhance their work. A talented team of teaching assistants ensures that pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities receive good support and many make rapid progress.
Curriculum and other activities
Pupils' learning links together well. For example, Years 5 and 6 pupils used their learning from history, literacy and music to practise for a performance. Both boys' and girls' progress well in writing when presented with themes that engage and interest them. For example Year 1 pupils wrote about pirate adventures. Plenty of problem solving activities in mathematics are planned to enable pupils to think carefully about their options to find solutions. The excellent range of extra-curricular activities in sport, the arts and dramatic performances does much to boost pupils' enjoyment of school. Residential visits in this country and abroad widen pupils' horizons. Older pupils enjoy learning German, French and Spanish. Uncertainty about the provision of a new building has meant that the school has not invested in outdoor areas for the Foundation Stage children. These currently lack stimulation for children's exploration of space and imaginative play. The links with other schools extend pupils' learning in a good range of subjects, particularly for those who are gifted and talented.
Care, guidance and support
Good relationships mean that pupils readily seek help from adults if they need to. The staff know the pupils well and provide a good level of daily care so that pupils feel well looked after. Procedures for child protection and safeguarding pupils are robust. Good guidance over how to stay healthy is reflected in pupils' determination to lead healthy lives. Pupils have longer term targets but sometimes lack the guidance to understand the next small steps they need to make to meet them. The support for pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities is well organised and effective. Likewise, support for pupils from traveller communities is effectively planned. Advice from outside agencies, such as health services, is used wisely to support individuals.
Leadership and management
Much of the school's success is as a result of the headteacher's good leadership during an uncertain time. She has been at the forefront of creating a positive identity and purpose for the new school that pupils greatly appreciate. Good leadership and management provide effective support for the personal development of pupils as well as making sure that all pupils' progress benefits from what is on offer. The overwhelming majority of parents have confidence in the school and feel that it provides well for their children. The happy team of staff shares a common vision and the skills and confidence to carry out the school's planning for improvement. The staff's skills have been boosted so that they can reflect on practice and performance across the school to see where improvements are needed. In this way, the need to boost Years 1 and 2 pupils' comprehension in reading has been identified. The school is good at making sure that support is available to those pupils most in need. Governance is satisfactory. The relatively new governing body ensures that all of its statutory duties are met. Governors are working hard to extend their skills in providing the level of challenge to the school by asking pertinent questions.