The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector.
Description of the school
College Park is a community special school for 83 pupils aged 5 to 16. All have a statement of special educational needs relating to learning difficulties and other needs including behaviour, communication and autism. The school works in partnership with a number of local schools. Recent awards include Healthy School, Sportsmark and Artsmark. The acting headteacher has held this post for over a year. The school is due to move location whilst major building works are carried out. It is also subject to re-organisation and its intake will be more specifically pupils with autism. The appointment of an executive headteacher for this and a sister school was made during the inspection. The school is in the early stages of applying for Specialist Schools Status.
Overall effectiveness of the school
College Park School provides a good education for its pupils and provides well for their personal development and well-being. They make good progress in a wide range of subjects and gain accreditation that prepares them well for leaving school.
The pupils' behaviour is good, as is their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. The good curriculum enables the pupils to improve their communication skills as well knowing about staying safe and healthy in an environment where they enjoy lessons. There are also many opportunities for creativity, although not all pupils in Key Stage 3 have access to music lessons. The quality of teaching is good. Teachers and teaching assistants know the pupils well and most lessons are well planned, reflecting the good specialist subject knowledge held by staff. Relationships with all staff are good. Teachers' use of assessment to plan lessons is good overall.
Vocational programmes, work experience and attendance at local colleges of further education prepare older pupils well for leaving school. The curriculum is enriched by enterprise activities and after school clubs that have a positive impact on their personal development and well-being. Good attention is given to making the curriculum relevant to needs. School based programmes are well planned and monitored although some off-site activities for a minority of older pupils lack this necessary attention to detail.
The quality of care, guidance and support is good. School procedures ensure that pupils' well-being is appropriately safeguarded. Pupils receive good support from school staff and therapists to develop effective communication and improve behaviour where appropriate.
Leadership, management and governance are good. The acting headteacher and deputy have responded well to the challenges posed by the headteacher's illness, a changing pupil population and re-organisation proposals that include temporarily moving site during major building works. The senior managers have a good overview of the school's effectiveness and provide relevant training for all staff. Subject development planning is good, although not all departments make sufficient use of achievement data to evaluate their effectiveness on pupils' progress.
The governing body gives good support on personnel, premises and finance issues although their role in evaluating pupils' achievement is underdeveloped. Parents are overwhelmingly supportive of the school. The school has made good progress since the last inspection and its capacity to improve further is also good.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve the analysis of progress by all staff and governors to ensure that all pupils are achieving as well as they can.
- Ensure that all off-site alternative curriculum programmes are of the same quality as those that are school-based.
- Provide opportunities for all Key Stage 3 pupils to study music.
Achievement and standards
Pupils make good progress in relation to their abilities and the targets set for them. The standards attained are inevitably well below average given the nature of the pupils' special educational needs. At the end of Key Stage 4 pupils achieve accreditation in a range of subjects including English, mathematics, science, information and communication technology, art and drama. The majority of examinations are at GCSE entry level. Vocational and enterprise awards are gained within the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network (ASDAN), Young Enterprise entry level and BTEC Skill for Working Life. Pupils also make good progress towards targets in their individual education plans. The school's tracking of progress is good and shows no significant differences in achievement between groups of pupils. However, the school acknowledges that the analysis of achievement data requires further investigation to ensure all pupils are achieving as well as they can.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils clearly enjoy being at school as seen by good attendance and behaviour. On arrival they exchange greetings with peers and staff. Many take advantage of breakfast club and show a good awareness of what makes for a healthy diet. Those who have to remain in taxis until school begins do so patiently.
During lessons and breaks their behaviour is good. The vast majority accept the inconvenience posed by the school's limited accommodation very well, for example having to travel off-site for physical education and games lessons. Occasionally, they have to change rooms at short notice due to other classes requiring additional space for specific lessons.
Pupils and their parents feel the school is a safe place to be. Rare incidents of challenging behaviour are properly recorded and fully investigated to everyone's satisfaction. There are many evident friendships in class and in the playground. Through the curriculum pupils experience the cultures and faiths of others and develop good spiritual and cultural understanding.
Pupils make a good contribution to the community through work experience, charitable donations and drama performances. Membership of the school council is taken seriously and they understand the importance of consultation and decision making, such as choosing the school uniform. Pupils enjoy success in local and national competitions and have created award winning designs. They look after each other well and understand moral issues such as the importance of conservation. Through work-related learning and a variety of mini-enterprise activities they gain a good awareness of the world of work. Pupils readily take up opportunities for exercise and understand the importance of a healthy diet and the need to stay safe.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teachers and teaching assistants have a good knowledge of pupils' different needs and reflect this in their planning. Appropriate account is given to prior attainment when setting up learning groups. Teachers and assistants work well together as a team, often with assistants taking on specialist roles, for example monitoring and supporting behaviour and in programmes to develop the social use of language. The most effective lessons involve practical and purposeful activities that engage the pupils fully; for example in art where the pupils achieve well in accredited courses and express themselves freely. Teachers use a wide range of teaching styles that involve whole class and individual learning. Effective use is made of praise and immediate feedback, for example 'good looking' or 'good learning'. Behaviour management is effective and staff liaise well to ensure disruption to learning is minimised. Occasionally, the content of lessons does not fully match the pupils' abilities and some lessons lack the pace evident where teaching is better. Appropriate use is made of interactive whiteboards. In order to meet the increasingly complex needs of the pupils, staff have embarked upon learning alternative methods of communication with pupils such as picture exchange. These methods are very effective for pupils who need visual support for communication.
Curriculum and other activities
The recently revised curriculum is good. In all subjects there is a suitable focus upon literacy and numeracy. In Key Stage 4, in addition to accredited subjects such as GCSE, Entry Level and Youth Awards, there are well-planned vocational programmes. Relevant activities include work experience, mini-enterprises and part-time attendance at a local college of further education. For a minority of pupils personalised programmes are drawn up that include access to off-site provision. However, some elements of these programmes lack the rigorous monitoring evident for those based at school. Although there is good provision for creative arts not all pupils in Key Stage 3 have music lessons to which they are entitled.
Extra curricular provision is good and includes a very popular performance arts group led by external specialists. The annual residential trip has been suspended this year due to staffing difficulties. Opportunities for competitive sports are regularly provided and the breakfast club has a good impact on the pupils' well-being and understanding of health-related matters. Good use is also made of the local community, for example visits to local museums and places of interest.
Care, guidance and support
Overall, care guidance and support for pupils is good, with particular strengths in pastoral aspects. This ensures pupils feel safe, promotes their personal development very effectively and helps them achieve well. Good links exist with other professional agencies. Therapies, particularly speech and language, have a significant impact on pupils' achievements. Good provision is made for more vulnerable pupils, for example specific groupings based on behavioural needs and close support from pastoral staff. Significant preparation is undertaken to ensure smooth transition between classes and when leaving school for further education. Annual reviews of statements of special educational needs keep parents well informed. Parents are overwhelmingly supportive with comments such as, 'the school has done wonders for my child'. Academic support and guidance is good. The majority of reports are very detailed, although some in Key Stage 4 focus too much on attitudes and effort rather than progress and guidance for improvement.
Leadership and management
Leadership, management and governance are good. The acting headteacher has shown good leadership since taking up the post in difficult circumstances. She is very well supported by the acting deputy headteacher and together they have worked hard to improve the school. They work well with senior mangers to identify and implement improvements to management procedures and delegated responsibilities. These include re-establishing performance management for all staff, rigorous monitoring of behaviour and a curriculum review in light of the pupils' changing special educational needs. These actions have had a positive impact on achievement. The deployment of teaching assistants, especially those with specialist roles, is particularly effective in supporting pupils with additional communication and behavioural needs.
Subject leadership is good overall and aided by good specialist subject knowledge. The senior management team have rightly identified the need to develop staff expertise to address the challenges posed by a move to class based lessons for most subjects in Key Stage 3 and below. The routine gathering of evidence and analysis of progress data to inform subject planning is at an early stage although is well developed in English.
Professional development is very strong for all staff. The school has good systems to induct new staff and effective support is given when appropriate. Monitoring procedures give an accurate view of teaching and planning. The school's commitment to inclusion and equality of opportunity is good. The governors have relevant expertise in personnel, premises and finance. This is used to good effect, notably in recruiting an executive headteacher and involvement in local authority's re-organisation planning. Finances are well managed and appropriately audited. However, governors' role in evaluating pupils' achievement is less well developed.