The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector.
Description of the school
Dauntsey's is a small school situated in a largely rural area. The school has grown from five to six classes in recent years and takes a large minority of pupils from outside of its immediate area. Attainment on entry to Reception is very broadly as expected, but varies from year to year. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities within the school as a whole is below average, but above average in some year groups. Most pupils are from White British families. A few are from minority ethnic backgrounds and just a very few are learning to speak English as an additional language.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Dauntsey's is a good school. Parents are very well aware of the school's many attributes and express high levels of satisfaction. Their comments pay tribute to a happy school where children thrive academically and personally. Pupils benefit from a good curriculum, which has at its core a rich and varied range of exciting activities. Opportunities for sport and the arts are particularly well developed. The quality of the school's care, guidance and support is good, with much attention given to nurturing pupils' confidence and self-esteem. All these factors produce well-motivated pupils who enjoy their lessons. A particular highlight of pupils' good personal development and well-being is their excellent behaviour.
All pupils achieve well, whatever their particular needs. National test results over the last three years show increasing improvement to the rate of pupils' progress. The broadly average standards of the current Year 6 represent good progress for this particular group, given that it has a higher-than-usual proportion of pupils with learning difficulties. A strong pace is set from the start in the Reception class, where provision and progress are good. Indeed, teaching and learning are good throughout the school, marked by the use of a variety of interesting and practical activities that capture the attention of all. When teaching is, sometimes, outstanding, pupils work with considerable enthusiasm and energy. Academic performance is supported well through firmly established systems for setting targets and monitoring progress. Learning targets clearly point out to pupils what they need to do next in order to move on. Other targets identify the National Curriculum level each pupil is expected to reach, although these are not always as challenging as they could be in order to fully reflect the potential of more able pupils. The school is aware that pupils are not yet routinely receiving feedback on how to improve their work, and plans to improve the quality of marking.
At the heart of the school's continuing improvement are its good leadership and management. The school's strong drive and commitment comes first from the headteacher and, as one governor said, 'her staff are right behind her'. Leadership responsibilities, including the monitoring of the school's effectiveness, are well developed. As a result, the school has an accurate understanding of its effectiveness and sees clearly what it must do to move forward. Governors provide valuable support and expertise. The combination of these strengths, together with the school's increasing success, demonstrates its good capacity for future improvement.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure that National Curriculum targets are always sufficiently challenging and fully reflect the potential of more-able pupils.
- Make sure pupils consistently receive feedback on how their work could be improved.
Achievement and standards
Achievement is good and all pupils make good progress from the start of the Reception onwards. The current Reception children are reaching standards above the expected level, having entered the school with broadly expected attainment. National test results have risen at Year 2 in the last two years, and were above average in reading and writing in 2006. Mathematics rose to the higher end of the broadly average band. The improving trend has been maintained this year and standards in the current Year 2 are above average in each of these three subjects.
Standards in the current Year 6 are broadly average as a whole, while those in mathematics are above average. This group has done well. It entered Reception with attainment below the expected level and has a large minority of pupils with learning difficulties. In recent years, test results at Year 6 have been broadly average for English, mathematics and science separately although, when aggregated, results are above average. Most importantly, there has been a steady rising trend to above-average levels in the national comparisons that indicate the rate of pupils' progress. This success was particularly marked in mathematics in 2006 and reflects the school's efforts to bring pupils' achievement in this subject closer to that in English, where performance has been stronger. Targets at the higher Level 5 in 2006 were substantially exceeded in both English and mathematics and the school is aware that these targets are not always as challenging as they should be. While science has improved, the school has been relatively less successful in this subject.
Personal development and well-being
The popularity of the school's many clubs, pupils' good attendance and their responsiveness during lessons illustrate their enjoyment of everyday life at school. So, also, did their great excitement during an inter-school netball tournament! Excellent behaviour is the hallmark of their good spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Pupils report only minor irritations in behaviour and a ready gathering in of those who wait at the 'bus stop' because they have no one to play with. Pupils are not afraid to come out to the front in assembly and some speak and perform with considerable confidence. Even when more open-ended activities, such as drama, demand that bit more common sense, pupils are mature and sensible; during their pond-dipping activities the oldest pupils showed a good understanding of personal safety. Pupils are well aware of the benefits of sporting activities and talk authoritatively about minerals and nutrients to illustrate what 'healthy' foods should contain. Spiritual development is a relatively weaker area, with some missed opportunities in assemblies to enhance pupils' spiritual awareness.
Pupils make a strong contribution to the local area, developed through sporting links with other schools, studying local history and taking part in events with members of the village community. Through their school council and class discussions, pupils have valuable opportunities to share their views and plan improvements to, for example, outside facilities and lunchtime meals. The many attributes of pupils' personal development, in addition to their good academic progress, prepare them well for the future.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Lessons are typically well organised and with a wide range of strategies that guarantee pupils' interest and participation. The frequent use of drama is particularly successful, in the preparation for writing tasks, for example, as are opportunities to share ideas with a partner. Practical activities outside the classroom to collect and record information give learning a 'real' context. Sometimes these experiences are of a high quality. When this happens pupils cannot wait to get going with their tasks and are utterly engrossed in their discoveries and discussions. In almost every case pupils are expected to complete a good quantity of work. Activities are modified appropriately to meet the different needs of pupils, and teaching assistants give well-focused support to small groups of pupils.
Where elements of teaching and learning are sometimes satisfactory, rather than good, there is a slower pace or missed opportunities to fully exploit discussion or use time to the full. The school is already considering its policy for marking work and giving feedback. In some classes, pupils benefit from detailed comment about how their work could be improved, but this practice is not yet a common feature.
Curriculum and other activities
A broad mix of activities, including the excitement of first-hand experience, gives the curriculum a richness that is much appreciated by parents – as one parent wrote, the 'creative, imaginative approach makes learning fun and captures the imagination'. Extremely successful links with other schools promote sport in particular, and other subjects too, such as design and technology and mathematics. A gardening club, French, dance and drama, visiting actors and musicians and trips out of school to the seaside and local towns are a sample of the diversity of activities that broaden pupils' experiences. The school's promotion of the arts and a healthy lifestyle are recognised in national awards. The school grounds provide a valuable learning resource and those moments of wonder when some special creature is found.
A particular focus on mathematics has helped the school to gradually close the gap in achievement between this subject and English. Links with other subjects have given pupils greater opportunities to use mathematics in other contexts, in the same way that pupils now have more chances to write in other subjects. The school is promoting the more effective use of investigation activities in order to accelerate further pupils' performance in science.
Care, guidance and support
Parents praise the school's welcoming and nurturing atmosphere and the commitment of staff to the care of their children. Staff know their pupils well and pupils say their teachers are kind and helpful. The meticulous care given to procedures for safeguarding pupils illustrates the close attention to arrangements for keeping pupils safe and secure. The school caters well for a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities. These pupils, and those learning to speak English as an additional language, are wholly integrated into daily life and learning. Links with outside agencies are used extremely well to cater for particular needs and difficulties.
The school makes valuable use of a range of assessment information to keep a careful track of pupils' progress and set targets for the future. Nevertheless, National Curriculum level targets sometimes lack the challenge necessary to fully reflect the potential of more-able pupils. Pupils are well aware of learning targets for English and mathematics and the school plans to involve them more fully when judging their progress.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are successful because they are well developed at all levels. Subject leaders are closely involved in monitoring their subjects and leading developments. The ready teamwork and shared enthusiasm and commitment are directly attributable to the headteacher, whose strong influence is recognised and greatly respected by parents, staff and governors. Parental satisfaction is considerable, as is their contribution to the school. The improved and improving academic picture is the result of much hard work. Nevertheless, the school recognises that it still has further refinements to make in order to ensure that pupils always do their very best, including enhancing its challenge and guidance for pupils. It is well placed to take these and other improvements forward.
In the work of the governing body, support, development and challenge go hand in hand. The school benefits from governors' wide range of expertise, close links with staff and readiness to share information with parents.