The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector.
The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: standards and pupils’ progress in mathematics at Key Stage 2; standards in reading and writing in the Foundation Stage; the effectiveness of assessment procedures; the identification of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and the progress they make; the impact of leadership and management on the care, guidance and support for pupils. Evidence was gathered from: performance data; the school’s self-evaluation and other school documentation; observation of teaching and learning; the work produced by pupils, parents’ questionnaires and discussions with pupils and staff.
Other aspects of the school’s work were not investigated in detail, but the inspector found evidence to suggest that the school’s own assessments of some aspects, as given in its self-evaluation, were a little modest. These have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
The school is larger than average. Nearly all pupils are from White British backgrounds, with very few who speak English as an additional language. The proportion of pupils who are eligible for free school meals is above average. So too is the percentage of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, many of whom have emotional and behavioural difficulties. The school has a higher than average number of pupils who have a statement of special educational need. A high proportion of children have speech and language difficulties when they join the Nursery.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Denbigh Community Primary is a good school. Pupils’ achievement is good and pupils make good progress in their academic skills and personal development from very low starting points in the Nursery. Despite this good progress, standards are well below average in reading, writing and mathematics by the end of Year 2; teachers’ assessments in 2007 confirm this. Additional support and further training for staff has improved standards noticeably since the start of the year. Progress is good in Key Stage 2 for all pupils including those who speak English as an additional language and by the end of Year 6 standards have improved and as reflected in the results of national tests are now broadly average. Disappointing results in mathematics in the 2007 tests prompted the school to reorganise the teaching of mathematics in Key Stage 2. These very effective changes show the school has already exceeded the target set for the number of pupils expected to reach the higher level. School data indicates that pupils are on course to meet the challenging targets set in all subjects this year. Although most pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities make good progress a few pupils with significant learning or emotional difficulties do not sustain this progress and could achieve more. The school does not closely monitor the effect of support for these pupils and its impact on their progress.
Teaching and learning are good and sometimes excellent. Pupils learn well because interesting activities in lessons ensure success and are built upon secure knowledge of pupils’ abilities and previous learning. Thorough lesson preparation and high expectations that pupils will think for themselves ensure lessons move at a good pace. Adults are well aware of the complex barriers to the learning of some pupils. They take good account of these when preparing lessons and ask questions that extend learning as well as developing pupils’ speaking and listening skills. The use of discussion, learning partners and group activities are all popular with pupils, who say they learn better this way. The grouping of pupils by ability for mathematics in Key Stage 2 is improving the match of work to ability and also makes effective use of staff to maximise learning. As a result, pupils feel well challenged and motivated to work hard. There has been a significant increase in the progress of these groups this year. During mathematics lessons, pupils’ attitudes are excellent and enjoyment is high. Well prepared teaching assistants give good support and build warm relationships with pupils who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. This helps to build pupils’ self-esteem and confidence in their ability to succeed. Several parents commented on how well their children learn, for example, ‘The school will not rest till a child’s potential is unlocked.’
A good quality, well planned curriculum provides a strong base for the development of basic skills. Provision for information and communication technology (ICT) has improved well since the last inspection and pupils enjoy using computers in their learning. Enrichment of learning through visits, visitors and links with the community and other schools is particularly good. For example, high quality art displays show the impact of visiting specialists on pupils’ standards. Pupils say they enjoy the many opportunities they have to learn new things and discover new talents.
Pupils’ personal development is good; so too are their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. This is because of the high priority that the headteacher gives to this part of the school’s work and staff work hard to promote pupils’ self-respect and self-esteem. Some parents expressed concerns about the behaviour of a few pupils in some classes. The vast majority of pupils behave well. In some older classes their behaviour is exemplary. Pupils with emotional and behavioural problems are well supported to learn in class. They are promptly and well managed to minimise any disruption to learning. Good behaviour in the infants’ playground is well supported by prefects and buddies who keep a sharp eye out for pupils who seem lonely or upset. Some older pupils would like this good system extended to the junior playground so that pupils there can turn to someone if they have concerns. This attitude is typical of older pupils who show a clear understanding of their role as good citizens in making the school run smoothly.
While pupils agree that there is some bullying from time to time, they feel they have been well prepared to deal with it through class discussions, personal and social education lessons as can be seen in the many helpful posters around the school. Pupils in both key stages have high levels of trust in the staff and say they know who to go to for help if they have concerns about the behaviour of others towards them.
Pupils have good attitudes to learning and always work hard to succeed with tasks and to please their teachers. They form good relationships amongst themselves, with teachers and with all adults on site. They show respect for others, are welcoming and courteous to visitors, greet them warmly and hold doors open to allow them to pass. A well planned personal, social and health education programme, enhanced with visits and visitors, ensures pupils have a good understanding of healthy eating and how to stay fit and safe. Eco-warriors and school councillors make a significant contribution to raising awareness of environmental and school issues. Pupils are well involved in making contributions to improve the school, the environment and the local community.
Pupils’ pastoral needs are exceptionally well catered for because their welfare is central to the school’s vision that a child learns best when it is safe, secure and happy. All staff show high levels of care and commitment to pupils. They know their pupils and their families well and are well trained so that they spot any concerns quickly and give the necessary support. Pupils say that staff are ‘always ready to listen’. The assessment of pupils’ learning is good during lessons where there is regular checking of pupils’ understanding of what they are being taught. Teachers generally make good use of assessment information to plan new learning, but recent changes in staff have led to some inconsistencies in this and in the quality of marking and feedback to pupils. There are many links with external agencies and other schools to ensure that pupils who need either additional help or extra challenge to develop their talents have their needs met. All safeguarding, child protection and health and safety procedures are in place.
Leadership and management are good. The headteacher’s commitment to the pastoral care and emotional development of pupils is exceptional. All staff fully support his vision. This ensures pupils are given the support and encouragement they need to succeed. The school knows its strengths and areas for improvement well. Governors are involved in monitoring the work of the school, are well informed and give good support and challenge. All staff are encouraged to contribute to school improvement and many successful initiatives are the product of staff enthusiasms or interests. Very good leadership by the headteacher, ably supported by the deputy headteacher and senior leadership team, has ensured the school has made good progress since the last inspection, despite much unavoidable staff absence. Standards have risen and the quality of teaching has improved. The senior leadership team have supported colleagues well and have created a vibrant, committed team which is determined to overcome barriers to pupils’ learning. The school’s capacity for further improvement is good.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children start in Nursery with skills that are well below what is typical for their age. Each year a high proportion join the Foundation Stage who have speech and language difficulties and many have a low level of personal, social and emotional development. These weaknesses present considerable barriers to children’s learning and staff rightly focus on establishing routines to help children to grow in confidence and develop the independence necessary for their learning. Children feel safe and secure because they are well cared for by adults who form warm relationships with them. Teaching is satisfactory. The children make satisfactory progress but by the end of Reception the majority have not reached the expected goals for their learning. The curriculum is developing well this year with greater attention to the teaching of letter sounds, but children are still not developing their language skills quickly enough because there are not enough opportunities for writing and learning reading skills alongside an adult. The recently established Foundation Stage team is working well to develop provision and improve assessment procedures. Their energy and commitment is appreciated by parents who say their children are happy and settled in school. Parents are pleased with the good relationships that staff have with them.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve the consistency of assessment, marking and feedback to pupils to enable them to reach even higher standards.
- Monitor more closely the support for pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities to ensure that all of these pupils always make good progress.
- Raise standards and improve opportunities in all aspects of language development in the Foundation Stage.