The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Although this school is only slightly smaller than most primary schools, its numbers have fallen significantly since the last inspection, due to local demographic changes. About three quarters of the pupils have White British heritage and very few are at an early stage of learning to speak English. An above average proportion of pupils have learning difficulties and disabilities. The most prominent difficulty is in learning to communicate, especially by writing, and there is also an above average proportion of pupils with Asperger's syndrome. The headteacher took up her post at the start of the current term and the other two members of the senior team were appointed at the start of the previous term.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a satisfactory school. Many parents commented that, recently, the school has begun to show significant improvement. Several said that misbehaviour had previously often impeded progress, but that now teachers are making pupils more aware of what is expected of them, and are better at monitoring and dealing with misbehaviour. Inspection confirmed that in most classes, pupils behave well and work hard. In a few lessons, however, the misbehaviour of a minority continues to impede progress.
While standards are below average in Year 6, the impact of measures to improve teaching and learning is being seen in accelerating progress. This is shown in the school's assessment records, and is confirmed by lesson observations and pupils' work. The impact of improvement work is most clear in English, where progress is accelerating most rapidly. As a result, increasing numbers of pupils are reaching expected standards by Year 6. Whilst satisfactory, progress is slower, and standards are lower, in mathematics. Until recently, progress in mathematics was insufficient in some classes, but it is now adequate throughout the school. This has been secured by improving teaching and learning, so that almost all lessons are now at least satisfactory. Teachers have not previously provided enough opportunities for pupils to learn to use their mathematics skills to solve problems independently. The increased opportunities are contributing to pupils' accelerated progress. In all subjects, an increasing number of lessons is good, but inconsistencies still remain, so that, overall, the quality of teaching and learning is satisfactory. Teachers are improving the way in which they use assessment to plan appropriate challenges for all pupils and to ensure that all are making the progress that they should be. This is better in some year groups than others, however.
Leadership and management are satisfactory. There are emerging strengths. The headteacher has quickly identified the school's strengths and weaknesses. She is providing a clear direction for her colleagues, with a strong emphasis on making all pupils feel welcome and able to do their best. At the same time, she is ensuring that staff feel that their ideas are valued, and this is contributing to strong unity of purpose. The impact of improvement work is becoming clear, for example, in better behaviour and progress, particularly in English. While these signs are recent, the track record and clear focus demonstrate a satisfactory capacity for improvement.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children make a satisfactory start in Foundation Stage. In most years they enter Reception with knowledge and skills generally below expected levels for their age. Children quickly learn to play together constructively, for example, in the role of firefighters. Early literacy skills develop satisfactorily through activities that show children how to recognize words and talk together. The adults use the outside area effectively. They do this, for example to develop children's movement and balance skills on small vehicles and by developing their understanding of the outdoor environment by planting seeds and watching the plants grow. Children play some imaginative games, enjoying finding and identifying mathematical shapes hidden in sand. Occasionally, activities have less purpose as, for example, when children are not sure about why they are making paintings. The recently appointed leadership is developing well with effective advisory support, arranged by the local authority. Well focused improvement strategies are being put into place and the impact is starting to be seen. In previous years, assessment has not always given a clear picture of children's starting points and progress. New systems are beginning to help the staff to do this well.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve standards and achievement in mathematics to match the recent acceleration in English.
- Make teaching and learning more consistent, particularly in using assessment to plan appropriate challenges for all pupils and check their progress.
- Improve the behaviour of the minority of pupils whose misbehaviour sometimes slows the progress of themselves and others.
A small proportion of the schools whose overall effectiveness is judged satisfactory but which have areas of underperformance will receive a monitoring visit by an Ofsted inspector before their next section 5 inspection.
Achievement and standards
Although pupils' standards are below average in Year 6, they make satisfactory progress from their starting points. An increasing number of pupils is making good progress and developing the expected reading and writing skills, so that English standards are now only slightly below average. Because their needs are identified carefully, and they are given effective additional help, the pupils who have additional difficulties in learning to write make as much progress as their classmates. While satisfactory, progress is slowest in mathematics and standards remain significantly below average. Many pupils have weaknesses in basic skills, such as multiplication and division. Recent work shows that this is improving, although many pupils do not use their skills well to solve problems independently. Although higher than in mathematics, standards in science are also below average. Pupils have limited ability to find things out for themselves by carrying out their own investigations.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' personal development and well-being, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, are satisfactory. Pupils are pleased that, while misbehaviour still affects progress in a few lessons, this is improving. They like the recently introduced moral and social codes, because these let them know what is expected of them. Attendance, which was below average, has also improved this year to return to an average level. Pupils like school, on the whole, but some older ones say they do not enjoy all lessons. They say that they are starting to enjoy mathematics more now they are learning to apply it to their life outside school. Pupils know how to keep fit and healthy through diet and activity, but several do not take the opportunity for morning exercises. Pupils feel safe in school and know who to talk to if something worries them. Pupils have positive attitudes to cultural diversity. They say, 'It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are nice. We like everybody the way they are'. The school council has had some success in bringing about improvements to the playground and library, and members are now preparing for 'Fun Friday' to raise money for a local hospice. Pupils develop skills in their key subjects satisfactorily to prepare them for their future lives.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
In most lessons, teachers manage pupils' activities carefully, so that they stay focused on their work. In a few lessons, teachers are not alert or assertive enough, so that lack of effort and misbehaviour continues to reduce progress on occasions. Teachers and teaching assistants work together effectively to give additional help to those who need this to keep up with the pace of work. Teachers are becoming increasingly successful in planning interesting activities that engage pupils' interest. This was seen in a mathematics lesson, where pupils enjoyed hearing about their teacher's intended holiday and making calculations to help him in his planning. Often however, while satisfactory, activities are less exciting because teachers stick to work set out in textbooks, or spend too long on some activities. When marking books, teachers often give pupils helpful tips for improving their work. In some years, they are starting to use assessment well to plan appropriate challenges for all pupils and to check that they are making the expected progress. This is not as strong in all years, however.
Curriculum and other activities
The satisfactory curriculum provides appropriate opportunities for pupils to learn the required subjects. The school's good computer provision is used effectively for pupils to develop their information and communication technology skills. There are good opportunities for pupils to use computers to enhance their work in some subjects, particularly mathematics, but these are not widespread enough. Pupils do not currently have an opportunity to learn a foreign language and the school is exploring ways to provide this. Links between subjects, to provide motivating opportunities for carrying out 'real' tasks, are also limited. Plans are developing well to tackle this, beginning next term with linked activities on Chinese themes. A sound personal and social education programme helps pupils to understand their rights and responsibilities. There is a satisfactory range of extra curricular activities and most are well attended. The school succeeds in ensuring that trips are open to all. Staff give extra support to pupils who might have particular difficulty in being away from home, to make sure that they can enjoy the residential visit.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are satisfactory. Pastoral care is good. The school provides a safe environment, so that pupils feel secure. Procedures for child protection are well organized and implemented diligently. There is good support for pupils with Asperger's syndrome and their parents, so that they are fully involved in all activities. The school makes appropriate use of specialist outside agencies to add to the care it gives. Systems for providing academic guidance are currently being improved. They are beginning to be used well to track pupils' progress and quickly help those who are falling behind their expected progress. Some parents commented on how well their children have caught up in the recently introduced 'booster' classes. However, while the impact of improvements is particularly clear in Reception and Years 2 and 6, it is not yet consistently so in the other years.
Leadership and management
The members of the senior team have quickly understood their own roles and are rapidly developing into a cohesive unit. With substantial support from local authority advisers, the school has developed effective self-evaluation processes. These are giving it an accurate view of the areas that it needs to improve and beginning to show impact on pupils' personal development and achievement. Governors are working effectively to improve their ability to monitor the school's work, and are becoming increasingly able to challenge when necessary. The leaders recognise that some systems, while improving, are not yet fully developed, so that, for example, the quality of tracking and its use to guide and support pupils are less effective in some years than others.