The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector, who evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues.
Standards and progress, especially in mathematics.
The way that enrichment of the curriculum encourages high levels of enjoyment and supports an understanding of healthy living.
Provision for gifted and talented pupils.
The impact of leadership on raising standards in writing.
Evidence was gathered from observations of pupils at work and play, discussions with staff, governors and pupils, scrutiny of documentation and an analysis of parents' views. 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
Most pupils in this much larger than average junior school come from their local communities in the northern part of Brighton. The school is housed in a listed Victorian building and has no playing field. The proportion of pupils identified with learning difficulties is slightly above average.
Pupils' attainment on entry fluctuates significantly from year to year; in the current year groups, pupils in Year 3 and Year 4 had much higher starting points than those in Year 6, where attainment on entry was broadly average.
The school has an Activemark and Artsmark Gold for provision in physical education and the arts respectively and also has a 'healthy school' award. The school's 'Investor in People' accreditation was renewed in May 2008.
Overall effectiveness of the school
In this good school, pupils achieve well and learn to become responsible citizens. Through its good work, the school lays a strong foundation for the next stage of pupils' education and their later life. Pupils develop good attitudes towards learning, are happy and sociable and work together well.
Good academic support and good teaching mean that pupils make good progress from their different starting points. Consequently, standards rise to above average levels by the end of Year 6 in English, mathematics and science. Throughout the school, pupils make particularly fast progress in developing writing skills. This has been a focus for school development over the last two years and leaders have been very successful in ensuring rapid improvement. Pupils have benefited enormously from sharper target setting, greater opportunities to write in different subjects and additional support through activities such as the externally funded Young Writer's Club. The school's termly newsletter, The Bell, which is written by older pupils, is a good example of how writing is being made more purposeful. In mathematics, progress is generally good, but there are some occasions when work is not pitched at the right level for all pupils. When this happens, work is either too easy or too hard for some pupils, slowing the pace of learning.
Throughout the school, teachers make good use of resources such as interactive whiteboards to introduce new concepts and to bring subjects alive. Pupils with learning difficulties make good progress because they are supported well by skilled teaching assistants. In the last term, the school has made a good start to improving provision for pupils identified as being gifted and talented, thus starting to address a concern of a small number of parents. Senior leaders are doing the right things to ensure that new procedures are embedded across the school. Whilst there is suitable challenge for gifted and talented pupils in most lessons, this is not always the case, especially in mathematics.
Members of staff take good care of the pupils. The school has established some imaginative ways of ensuring that any worries are tackled quickly. For example, the school's excellent website includes a confidential 'worry box' for pupils to report anonymously any concerns. This means that pupils are confident that they will get help when they need it and ensures that their personal development and well-being are good. Pupils very happily take responsibility and make a good contribution to the community. The school council carries out its role very conscientiously. Councillors are diligent in their work and they play a good part in improving the school. For example they are able to talk to the chair of governors about any areas they would like to see improved. Some of these concerns focus on the school building which, despite recent improvements such as the addition of a new dining hall, is rightly acknowledged by pupils, parents and staff as being very cramped and needing extensive refurbishment. The school does well to minimise the impact of these limitations on standards and has a rolling programme of planned improvements. For example, toilets in Years 3 and 4 are due to be refitted shortly.
Pupils are polite and courteous and work hard in most lessons, although they do not always take enough care to present their work neatly. They generally behave well and when behaviour does occasionally fall below the school's high expectations, either in lessons or at break times, members of staff usually take swift steps to ensure that others are not significantly affected. Nearly all pupils enjoy school, with several commenting on the exciting way that activities beyond lessons are used to enrich the already good curriculum. Creativity is fostered very imaginatively, with provision in music being outstanding. Pupils are very positive about the way they are encouraged to learn to play a musical instrument and there is a very high uptake for this. There are many opportunities for public performance, with the school's Samba band recently participating in a children's parade through the centre of Brighton and pupils in Year 4 taking part in an opera workshop at Glyndebourne. Pupils produce very high quality work in art, and this work is attractively displayed around the school. Pupils also like being able to learn Spanish, because 'it will help us when we go to secondary school'. The school's extensive efforts to promote positive lifestyles are reflected in the pupils' good knowledge of how to stay safe and their excellent understanding of the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles. Although the school has no playing field, members of staff compensate for this remarkably well. There are many sporting activities and pupils compete very successfully against other schools in sports such as rugby, football, netball, athletics and cross-country. Pupils are very comfortable with the school's decision not to allow unhealthy snacks at playtime, and they provide good challenge to outside caterers by talking to them about how to make school lunches even healthier.
The school is well led and managed. The good work of the headteacher and other senior leaders has helped the school to continue to improve since the last inspection. There are good systems for checking how well the school is doing and this means that senior leaders are able to tackle weaknesses quickly. The school is already taking the right steps to improve further pupils' progress in mathematics. There is a strong sense of teamwork across the school and subject leaders are keen and enthusiastic. However, they do not do enough to monitor teaching and learning in their subjects by visiting lessons regularly. This means that minor inconsistencies in provision such as variations in the quality of marking are not always picked up quickly enough. Governors provide good challenge to the school, and manage available funds astutely. The school sets itself challenging targets for development and it is well placed to improve further.
The school has good links with a range of partners, including other schools, support agencies and parents. Most parents are generally happy with the school, although some rightly feel that homework sometimes lacks challenge and does not always support learning well enough. One parent summed up the views of many by commenting that, 'My daughter has always enjoyed school and is moving towards secondary school as a well-rounded and mature 11-year-old, confident and well prepared for what lies ahead.' A Year 6 pupil, talking about her time at the school, said, 'I have had fun, made many friends and learnt a lot.' Comments such as these accurately capture the essence of this successful school.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure that teachers always provide the right level of challenge for all pupils, especially in mathematics.
- Strengthen the role of subject leaders in monitoring teaching and learning by visiting lessons so that any minor inconsistencies are picked up more quickly.