The inspection was carried out by four Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This larger than average school admits pupils from a wide range of social backgrounds and about half come from low income families. A low proportion is eligible for free school meals. About half are from minority ethnic backgrounds and one in six are at an early stage of learning English. The percentage of pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities is broadly in line with the national. The school was inspected in 2006 as part of the Primary National Strategy. There has been some staff turnover in recent years.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Botwell House is a good school with outstanding features and the overwhelming majority of parents agree. One parent summed up the good work of the school, 'I believe the school is well managed and staff do their best to bring out the best in pupils'.
Leadership and management are good. The headteacher along with two deputies provide strong leadership for the school. They have successfully addressed areas from the last inspection such as attendance, raising standards in information and communication technology (ICT) as well as ensuring that pupils have increased opportunities to carry out practical tasks. Governors have a good impact on the development of the school. They play an active role in the planning and evaluation of school improvement. Even though there has been some staff turnover in recent years, senior leaders have ensured that pupils achieve well.
Children currently join the school with levels of skills which are lower than those expected for their age. Provision in the Foundation Stage is good and the children make good progress although standards remain a little below those expected at the start of Year 1. Pupils continue to make good progress through school and attain broadly average standards by the end of Years 2 and 6. Achievement is good.
All staff have an outstanding impact on pupils' personal development. The Christian values and Catholic ethos of the school impact very well on pupils' positive attitudes, enjoyment as well as outstanding behaviour. Social, moral, spiritual and cultural development, along with pupils' understanding about safe practices and contribution to the community are all outstanding. Pupils' adoption of healthy lifestyles is good and improving. The curriculum including extra-curricular provision is good. The curriculum has been enhanced so that pupils are involved in more practical and problem solving activities. These result in outstanding co-operation and development of team building skills and, together with the pupils' good grasp of basic skills, equip them well for the future.
Teaching and learning are good. Good aspects include teachers' questioning skills, relationships between pupils and teachers and pupils' active engagement in their own learning. However, some lessons lack pace and this results in pupils losing interest in their learning. Not all pupils are challenged appropriately in all lessons as work is sometimes either too hard or too easy for them.
The care, guidance and support provided for pupils are good overall. However, not all pupils know what they have to do to improve their work. One of the reasons for this is due to inconsistencies in teachers' marking. The school has good links with secondary schools to ease transition as well as with external agencies, in order to meet pupils' needs.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve academic guidance for pupils so they are clear about what they need to do to improve.
- Improve teaching and learning by increasing pace and appropriate challenge for all pupils.
Achievement and standards
Pupils achieve well and attain broadly average standards at the end of Years 2 and 6. Although in the past children were generally of average ability when they joined the school, they now enter the Nursery with low level skills for their age in most areas of learning. They make good progress in their Nursery and Reception years, although their writing and mathematical skills are below those expected at the end of the Reception year.
In 2006 and in most of the years since the last inspection, pupils attained standards in the Year 6 tests in English, mathematics and science which were significantly above average. These cohorts started school with good skills, knowledge and understanding but changes in recent years have meant that most now start school with low levels of skill. The school's assessment data and pupils' work in lessons, demonstrate that pupils achieve well, although standards are not as high as in the past. Nonetheless, inspection evidence shows that through good teaching and a good curriculum the pupils make good progress and achieve well. Pupils with learning difficulties make good progress because they receive well focused support. Similarly, those at an early stage of learning English make good progress. There is no significant variation in the performance of minority ethnic groups.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils say that they have a really good time at school. This is reflected in their good attendance. Relationships are very positive and behaviour is excellent in class and around the school. Pupils' spiritual, moral and cultural development is outstanding. Pupils are keenly aware of their rights and responsibilities. The school councils make a very valuable contribution to the life of the school. They have introduced a lunchtime award which is given to the class that behaves most responsibly throughout the week. Pupils are keen to help each other, for example older pupils 'buddy' those who are experiencing problems. This, along with their charity work, helps to promote the caring, family atmosphere of the school. Pupils say bullying is rare but if it occurs it is quickly resolved. Very effective child protection arrangements ensure that pupils feel very safe. Pupils have a good understanding about healthy lifestyles but are aware that they do not always eat as healthily as they might. Pupils' good team working and problem solving skills, along with their good achievement ensure they are well prepared for the next stage of their education.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good and this is reflected in pupils' good achievement. Relationships are very good and as a result pupils work well both individually and in small groups, learning to collaborate and listening to the ideas of others. ICT is used effectively to capture the interest of pupils. In the best lessons questions are used well to challenge pupils and to check how much has been understood. Pupils in these lessons are effectively supported to assess their own work, which means that they are clear about what they are trying to learn. Pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities and those new to English are well supported by teaching assistants, as a result they gain the maximum benefits from the lessons. In other lessons, the work is not challenging enough and the pace is too slow because the teachers spend too much time talking and, as a consequence, pupils lose interest.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is good and problem solving and investigative work are becoming strong features. Pupils' thinking skills are promoted effectively through the curriculum. The school's focus on improving pupils' writing has had a positive impact on their achievement. The curriculum is enhanced by a good range of extra-curricular activities. There are special weeks where the main curriculum is suspended so that more creative activities can be introduced. These include a creative mathematics week which has had a positive impact on pupils' enjoyment of the subject and their personal development. Some teachers are linking subjects into themes successfully but there are instances where this approach led to some confusion for pupils, as they were not sure which skills or ideas they should use in their work. ICT is used well to develop learning across the curriculum. Children in the Foundation Stage benefit from very good facilities, including an especially well equipped outdoor play area for the Nursery class.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are good. Care and support are strengths. Arrangements to ensure pupils' safety are robust and meet current requirements fully. Teachers and other staff know the pupils well and understand their pastoral needs. Pupils and parents express confidence that staff give them all the support required in case of any difficulty. The needs of pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities, those new to English as well as pupils who are working below expected levels, are identified at an early stage and a range of good additional programmes are used to help them to overcome the challenges they face. The school has satisfactory systems in place for checking how well pupils are doing. However, the data is not used effectively by all teachers to plan appropriately challenging work for all pupils. Not all the pupils know their targets or how to improve their work. This is partly due to inconsistencies in teachers' marking.
Leadership and management
Senior leaders have coped well with the changes to the school resulting from lower attainment on admission and, by supporting new staff, have maintained the good quality of teaching. Newly qualified staff commented positively on the strong impact made by senior leaders in helping them to improve their teaching and planning. Senior leaders are working hard to develop shared leadership throughout school in order to enhance the skills of less experienced staff. Subject leaders have impacted positively on teachers training and have successfully modelled lessons. However, the monitoring of teaching and learning is currently performed by senior leaders only. The school is now beginning to develop the role of subject leaders so that they too play an active part in monitoring. Team leaders and year teams have a positive impact on curriculum planning and this has boosted pupils' writing and investigative skills. The school's self evaluation is good as leaders at all levels share the same vision, support each other very well and are clearly focused on raising pupils' achievements further. They know the school's strengths and areas for development and plan carefully to address any shortcomings.
Weekly meetings between the headteacher and chair of governors ensure that governors have a clear understanding of the school's strengths, as well as areas that require further development. They are involved in checking on the school's work and contribute well to the school's good capacity to make further improvement.