The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector. The following issues were investigated: the pupils' achievement, the quality of teaching and learning, the curriculum and how well the school's leadership promotes high standards and personal development. Evidence was gathered from observation of lessons, the pupils' work, discussion with them, with staff and the chair of governors, along with a scrutiny of school documents and parent questionnaires. Other aspects of the school's work were not investigated in detail, but the inspector found no evidence to suggest that the school's own assessments, as given in its self-evaluation form, were not justified. These have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
Barnes Farm Junior School is close to average size. The school population represents a mix of social backgrounds, but pupils are mainly White British. Attainment on entry is above average, overall. The number of pupils eligible for free school meals is below average. The proportion of pupils whose first language is not English is also below the national average. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, including those with statements of special educational need, is below national average.
Overall effectiveness of the school
The school judges itself to be outstanding, and the inspection confirms this. The quality of education is excellent and this is the main reason why pupils make outstanding progress.
The attainment of most children is above average on entry. At the end of Year 6, standards are exceptionally high and all pupils, including those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and the gifted and talented, have made outstanding progress. Almost all pupils reach at least the expected level for their age (Level 4) by the end of Year 6 in the national tests in English, mathematics and science. A very high proportion, more than half of the pupils, reach above average standards (Level 5). Significant numbers of pupils attain very high marks in the national tests for 11 year-olds. In mathematics, for example, more than 40% of pupils gained marks of over 90% and one pupil 100%. Level 5 is the highest that can be awarded at the end of Key Stage 2 and so the school's published results do not entirely reflect the progress that pupils are making, because some pupils are working at a higher level than this. Most pupils are highly numerate and many can read and write with exceptional fluency. In 2006, the school exceeded its targets for Year 6 pupils. In 2007, the school met its even more challenging targets for attainment at Level 4 and exceeded its targets for Level 5 in both English and mathematics.
Standards have risen significantly every year for the last three years. One way in which this has been successfully achieved is by organising pupils into teaching groups where work is planned to match their specific ability levels. For mathematics, and English in the upper school, pupils move classes into teaching groups matched to their needs and abilities. In English, those pupils who need additional support are regularly divided into small class groups where they are given additional help, whilst the rest remain together in small, mixed ability classes. In other subjects, the minority of pupils who have learning difficulties are very well supported in their learning through individual programmes and support systems. This helps them to make very good progress and explains why almost all reach at least the expected level for their age. The exceptional progress made by the higher attaining pupils is the result of carefully planned work that meets their needs and challenges them.
Pupils' personal development is outstanding. Their behaviour is excellent and their attitude to learning is outstandingly good. Almost all love coming to school, because, they say, 'everyone is friendly and lessons are fun.' This is one reason why attendance is well above average. Pupils willingly take on responsibilities to act as helpers and leaders and carry these out extremely responsibly. The work of the school council is very productive and pupil participation has a very real influence on the decisions which enhance their daily lives. For example, pupils' ideas and suggestions have improved the outside environment and they are very successful fund-raisers. In class, they have interesting and challenging lessons and this leads to them concentrating and working hard. They enjoy the interactive approaches that the teachers use. Rather than sitting passively for long periods listening to the teacher, something they do very well when required, they are often invited to discuss in small groups, solve mental problems to stimulate their minds or become part of the teaching process. For example, one group was given parts of a sentence to hold up and their friends instructed them to move to make different word combinations. In another class, pupils acted out short improvised plays in order to help the teacher explain the difference between speech and narrative. They also enjoy the excellent opportunities to use information and communication technology in their learning; both as a teaching and a research tool.
The outstanding care and support systems ensure all have equal chances to succeed and all statutory safeguarding requirements and procedures are in place. Parents were almost unanimous in their praise for the ways the school encourages and supports their children. They greatly appreciate the help and information given to assist them in supporting their children's academic development at home. The excellent 'Learning Habit' books which children take home daily not only record their homework but also inform parents of the themes being studied over the year. These parent-friendly books contain very useful information about mathematical and scientific terms used in school and the reading, spelling and science programmes that their children follow. The parents very much appreciate the levels of care and commitment shown by all the adults that work in the school. One or two parents are concerned about bullying, but the school takes such matters very seriously and deals with them well. The pupils report that there are only very minor incidents and these are quickly resolved. Excellent health education ensures pupils understand how to lead healthy lives. They readily explain the reasons for taking regular exercise and enjoy eating healthily. They receive excellent preparation for their future from the many opportunities to work together and take responsibility for their learning. The pupils make good contributions to the local community and their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding. They understand the reasons for school rules and value highly the rewards given for good work and considerate behaviour. Pupils care for each other and are very helpful and supportive of those classmates with learning difficulties and/or physical disabilities.
The school has grown in popularity and numbers are rising. As a result, space is at a premium and this restricts opportunities in subjects such as art, drama and music. The curriculum is good because of the excellent provision for the core subjects and the excellent after-school programme, but some classrooms are too small for very successful creative work. The school hall is heavily timetabled for physical education and lunch arrangements. There is no other available space for drama or music, and so opportunities for these subjects are restricted. Teachers work hard to overcome the difficulties, but time is wasted moving equipment from room to room. Art facilities are poor in the smaller of the classrooms and they are not flexible enough for an integrated, thematic curriculum to be taught easily. There is no first aid room. Pupils' needs have to be met in a corridor. This is barely acceptable for older children in a junior school. Despite the problems with the accommodation, teaching and learning are outstanding. Parents wrote that their children are making very good progress at school because the teaching is so good: 'This is an excellent school and we are lucky to have chosen it!' Teachers' management of their classes is excellent and they plan interesting, challenging lessons. Pupils' academic progress is tracked very well, but assessment information is not used consistently across the school to help pupils to improve their work in literacy. Not all teachers give enough written guidance to pupils on the next steps in their learning and pupils' targets are not specific enough.
The headteacher's leadership is outstanding and this is a major reason why the school has prospered in recent years. His enthusiasm and commitment drives the pursuit of excellence. He is supported very well by his leadership team and has developed a strong sense of teamwork amongst the staff. In addition there are excellent systems for reviewing and improving the school's work. As a result, the school is very well placed to improve further. There has been good improvement since the last inspection and the school provides outstanding value for money.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure that all teachers tell pupils what they need to do to raise the level of their work in literacy and set them specific, short-term targets.
- Take steps to resolve accommodation problems that are restricting some aspects of the curriculum.