The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector.
The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and particularly investigated the following issues: pupils' overall achievement but particularly their standards and achievement in Key Stage 1; standards on entry to the Foundation Stage and on entry to Year 1; pupils' personal development and the quality of care, guidance and support. Evidence was gathered from: national published assessment data; the school's self-evaluation, assessment records, policies, minutes and other documentation; observation of the school at work; discussions with members of staff, pupils, the chair of governors and a group of parents and the questionnaires returned by parents. 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, were not justified and these have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
The school is located in the town centre and in an area of social and economic disadvantage. It is in a relatively new building with a good size playground and a sports field. The proportions of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, English as an additional language, a statement of special educational need and those who claim a free school meal are all well above average. There is also a higher incidence than usual of pupils leaving or entering the school during term time.
The school has a number of awards: These include the National Inclusion Quality Mark, Activemark Gold Award, a National Healthy Schools Award and the Family Learning Kitemark.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school that is well led and managed, enables pupils to achieve well and provides them with outstanding care, guidance and support. Pupils' behaviour and attitudes are good. They enjoy a rich curriculum and are well taught.
Many children enter the Nursery with very weak skills, especially in their ability to communicate, to recognise number and in their personal, social and emotional development. They make good progress in the Nursery and Reception classes, but still enter Year 1 with well below expected skills in most areas of their learning. They consolidate their basic skills well in Years 1 and 2, making good overall progress. However, their standards in reading, writing and mathematics are still below average by the end of Year 2. The quality of boys' writing in Years 1 and 2 is still low despite improvements brought about by recently introduced initiatives to tackle this weakness. In Years 3 to 6 most pupils continue to make good progress. This means that by the time they leave Year 6, pupils reach broadly average standards in English, mathematics and science. Although an average proportion attains the higher Level 5 in reading, the performance of these same pupils in writing, mathematics and science is not as good. Having successfully raised the percentage of Year 6 pupils attaining the expected Level 4 over the last two years, enabling more of them to attain Level 5 in writing, mathematics and science, is a key area for improvement. The school has also adapted the provision for pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and after a period when these pupils did not always achieve as well as they might, their progress is now good.
The quality of the care and support pupils receive is excellent. The school has a much higher than average proportion of vulnerable pupils, of those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those who have difficulty conforming or behaving consistently well. The outstanding support they receive plays a major role in their good achievements, both academically and personally. The school's close partnerships with parents, the local authority and other support agencies contribute significantly to how happy most of these pupils are in school and how well they progress. The work of the learning mentors in providing support for families and pupils, for example, in providing a breakfast club, is most valuable. The school's comprehensive strategies to bring about improved attendance and punctuality of a small minority of pupils are being rewarded with their much better attendance.
Pupils' academic progress is carefully tracked. The information gained is used effectively to trigger support for any pupil at risk of underachieving and to set challenging targets for most pupils. Targets for the more able pupils could be more challenging on occasions.
Pupils behave very well in lessons because they are keen to learn and enjoy the tasks they are set. They talk enthusiastically about the sensitive support and good teaching they receive and feel that they 'learn lots in lessons' as a result. Their attitudes to learning are positive and they happily discuss their work with each other, take due note of the advice they are given by their teachers on how to improve their work and are knowledgeable about their targets for learning. It is noticeable that pupils respond very well to teachers' modelling of good behaviour and of a positive work ethic. There are many examples of teachers setting practical tasks which pupils enjoy greatly and from which they learn well. Pupils take their responsibilities as members of the school community and as young citizens very seriously. They support each other in the playground, acting as playground buddies or as play leaders. Members of the school council are active in suggesting improvements to resources or in identifying imaginative fundraising events. Members of the eco council promote concern for the environment. The Healthy Schools and Activemark Gold Awards reflect pupils' understanding of how important it is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. The 'golden mile' marked out in the playground is used by many pupils and contributes well to their physical fitness.
The school offers a rich curriculum that substantially meets the needs of pupils. They leave school having made good progress in the basic skills and as confident young people who relate well to, and respect, a wide range of people and cultures. The many diverse visits they make contribute very well to their learning and to their personal and social development. Strong partnerships with locally based, multinational companies also enhance pupils' experiences. For example, the grounds of one company are extensively used to increase pupils' understanding of science and of environmental issues. The residential visits pupils make in Years 2 to 6 make an excellent contribution to those pupils' confidence and social and cultural development. Year 6 pupils spoke extremely enthusiastically about their very recent visit to London where their historical, geographical and musical knowledge and their personal development were enhanced very well
The headteacher provides strong leadership and has focused unwaveringly on making this a highly inclusive school. Able and hard-working senior staff work closely with her to constantly seek improvement. Rigorous performance management, appropriate training and shrewd financial management mean that provision is regularly enhanced. Governors are vigilant in managing the budget and contribute well to school improvement and pupils' better achievement. For example, faced with a sudden influx of pupils from Eastern Europe who understood little or no English, they provided extra funds to deploy a teaching assistant to work exclusively with these pupils. This has resulted in them making good progress. The school's good record of improvement since the last inspection and the quality of its current provision give it a good capacity to improve further.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children make good progress in both the Nursery and Reception classes. There are sensitive arrangements to introduce families to the Nursery before children start to attend. This reassures parents and children and fosters good relationships that continue throughout children's time in the school.
Initially, the school has to work particularly hard to improve the much lower than expected social and communication skills of a significant proportion of children. Effective teaching and support throughout the Foundation Stage enable most children to settle happily and to work and play productively. This area of the school's work is led and managed well with all staff clear about their role and well deployed. The children's progress in all areas of their learning is observed and recorded rigorously. Children enjoy visits to promote their knowledge and understanding of the world around them and they learn to eat a balanced diet in a social setting during daily snack times. Staff make good use of the well equipped outside area to promote children's learning and independence. However, the layout of the Nursery places some limitations on children pursuing activities outdoors at will. In Reception, children develop their independence and enthusiastically follow adults' lead to express their ideas about characters they learn about in Big Books, through modelling, using glove puppets, painting and writing. Despite the good provision in the Foundation Stage children still enter Year 1 with skills that are well below expectation, especially in communication, language and literacy, in their mathematical development and in some aspects of their personal, social and emotional development.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve boys' writing in Years 1 and 2.
- Enable more Year 6 pupils to gain Level 5 in writing, mathematics and science.