The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Carterhatch Infant School is larger than average. Pupils enter the school in the September after their third birthday. They come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, the largest groups being of Turkish or White British heritage. More pupils than usual speak English as an additional language. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities is above average. This includes pupils with speech and language difficulties. A designated Nurture Group is established for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties. The percentage of pupils who qualify for free school meals is well above average. The school hosts a breakfast club for its pupils. At the time of the inspection, the headteacher had been in post for a few weeks.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Carterhatch Infant School is a good school. Parents are very supportive of the school and feel that their children 'make good progress and are happy.' The staff work hard, and successfully, to develop positive relationships with parents, and to involve them in their children's learning. The school cares for its pupils well and uses its good links with other agencies to provide specialist help where needed. Pupils feel safe in school and know that the adults will help them if they have a problem. Their personal development and well-being are good and contribute to both their enjoyment of school and their eagerness to learn. This enthusiasm makes a positive contribution to pupils' progress. They have good understanding of healthy eating and are enthusiastic about participating in sports and exercise.
In the few weeks since the headteacher was appointed, he has carried out a detailed and accurate analysis of the school's strengths and areas for development. This has led to comprehensive action plans for school improvement, which are beginning to be implemented. New staff, who will take up their posts in September 2008, have been appointed to strengthen and develop the effectiveness of the leadership team. Although subject leaders work conscientiously, they do not currently have sufficient influence over, or accountability for, standards and achievement in their subjects. This is an area identified by the headteacher for development. Governors are keen for the school to improve and are very supportive of the headteacher. Their involvement in the strategic development of the school, and in holding it to account for the quality of education it provides, are areas identified for development.
By the end of Year 2, standards are broadly average and pupils' achievement is good. From low starting points, standards in reading, writing, mathematics and science have gradually risen since the previous inspection. Whilst most teaching is good, and has made a significant contribution to rising standards, there are inconsistencies in the quality of teaching. These include variations in the accuracy of the challenge that is given to different groups of pupils and in the teachers' expectations of what the pupils can produce. This means that, in some lessons, pupils make less progress than they should.
Pupils readily take on responsibilities around the school. Pupils on the school council are proud of the opportunities they have to influence school development. The curriculum is satisfactory and has been enriched by a recent focus on personal, social and health education, which has done much to boost pupils' self-esteem. The curriculum is currently being revised to make it more creative and interesting. Pupils speak positively about school trips and clubs and these enrich the curriculum. The school's focus on teaching basic skills and giving pupils meaningful opportunities, such as taking responsibility for organising fund raising, help to prepare them well for future life.
The recent improvements in standards, combined with the planned strengthening of the leadership team and the rigorous monitoring and analysis of the school's strengths and weaknesses, followed by action to bring about improvement, all indicate that the school has good capacity to improve.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
When children are first admitted to the Nursery, their skills are often well below those generally found in three-year-olds. In addition, a very high proportion of children are at an early stage of learning English. The school successfully helps the children settle quickly and begin learning. Whilst the satisfactory teaching enables the children to make satisfactory progress, by the end of the Foundation Stage, few children reach the goals expected. There is some good and, occasionally, outstanding teaching, particularly in the Nursery and, in these lessons, children make good progress. However, planning and teaching, including teachers' expectations of what the children can do, are not consistent and cause children's progress to be uneven. There is a good focus on teaching letter sounds and names and this is helping to accelerate learning. Good use is made of the outside areas to enhance the children's learning, but the focus on learning and progress is not always as sharp as it should be. Support staff relate to the children very well and make a significant contribution to their learning. The staff monitor and record children's progress conscientiously. The headteacher has identified that better systems need to be put in place so that provision is consistently good in all classes. Robust plans are in place to promote improvement.
What the school should do to improve further
- Increase the proportion of good and outstanding teaching, so that all pupils are challenged to achieve well.
- Ensure that provision in the Foundation Stage is of consistently good quality in order to promote good progress.
- Increase the skills and accountability of subject leaders regarding their responsibilities for standards and achievement in their subjects.
Achievement and standards
Assessment information shows that all groups of pupils, including those with speech and language difficulties, make good progress from their low starting points. Pupils in the Nurture Group also make good progress because of the attention that is paid to their individual needs. The school is aware that it needs to continue working to raise standards and to improve the accuracy of its target setting. It is revising the ways in which it monitors pupils' progress and identifies where support is needed, to make the process more rigorous and so accelerate learning.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils are friendly, lively, confident and inquisitive. Their behaviour is good and they follow the Carterhatch Code very well. They have good awareness of how rules contribute to their safety and security. Pupils say, 'We must be good role models for other children.' All aspects of their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development are good. Pupils are particularly skilled in reflecting on their feelings. They have a good understanding of each other's cultural backgrounds. This understanding develops well through subjects such as art, music and literature. Attendance has improved considerably since the previous inspection and, although it remains below average, the school is doing all it can to continue this improvement. Pupils have a good understanding of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, both in terms of healthy eating and exercise. Pupils accept responsibilities readily. They are pleased to help other pupils on the playground and to be involved in making rules.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good overall, although the quality of both varies widely across the school. Staff usually plan conscientiously, are enthusiastic and make learning fun. In the words of one pupil, 'We have fun while we work. For me the fun thing is when you do things.' Teachers, including the very effective support staff, often use questions to assess pupils' learning, and give clear feedback, both orally and in marking, to identify what the pupils need to do next to improve. In some lessons, expectations are high, the pace of the lesson is fast and teachers make good use of resources, including the interactive whiteboard, to ensure that pupils make good progress. In a Year 2 literacy lesson, in which pupils were writing questions, the teacher made clear what she expected them to achieve and provided high quality resources to support them personally, so that they did very well. However, this is not always the case and, sometimes, the pace of learning is too slow and teachers expect too little of the pupils, with the result that in these lessons some pupils make insufficient progress.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is broad and balanced and contributes well to pupils' personal development and provides a sound platform for their learning. The school acknowledges that it needs to provide more opportunities for pupils to practise their basic skills across a range of subjects. Planning is good for pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities, including those with behavioural problems. Those learning English as an additional language are given good access to the curriculum. This is underpinned by effective personal, social and health education, through which children learn to be calm, capable and confident. Pupils speak with enthusiasm about what they do in school. The curriculum is enriched by visits, visitors and participation in local community activities, including music and folk dance festivals, gymnastics competitions and a young citizens environmental project. A breakfast club and a range of after school clubs are also very well-attended.
Care, guidance and support
Procedures to keep pupils safe are well established and effective. Support for pupils with speech and language difficulties and for those in the Nurture Group is good. The school liaises very successfully with outside agencies to support the well-being and development of all its pupils. The large proportion of pupils who enter the school speaking very little English are given good support in order to help them settle quickly. A recent focus on improving behaviour is proving effective and pupils understand what is expected of them. The school is working hard to involve pupils in understanding how well they are doing. Pupils know their targets, and the school is developing their skills in evaluating how well they are doing and in understanding what they need to do next to achieve their targets. Support for pupils when they join the school, and when they prepare to move on to their next school, is good, enabling them to settle quickly and happily.
Leadership and management
The headteacher has a clear sense of direction for school improvement and understands how to bring this about quickly. He has developed a good sense of teamwork with his deputy and has successfully raised the awareness of staff and governors regarding the priorities for school improvement. He is taking effective steps to bring this about. The process of school self-evaluation is being improved so that it involves all staff and governors and takes account of the views of parents and pupils.
The school has recognised that the responsibility of subject leaders for standards and achievement in their subjects is not well developed. Plans are in place to increase their skills in, and understanding of, their responsibilities as leaders and managers. Governors support the school well and have a satisfactory understanding of the school's strengths and weaknesses. Their involvement in school self-evaluation, in subsequent planning and in developing their monitoring roles, are all areas rightly identified for development.