The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals is well below the national average. Most pupils are of White British heritage. The proportion of pupils with moderate learning difficulties is below the national average. There was extensive building work taking place during the inspection, which meant that most classes were housed in temporary accommodation.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Downsway Primary provides a satisfactory standard of education for its pupils. It is improving because the headteacher and deputy headteacher provide good leadership and clear direction. They ensure a shared vision for the school, leading to good quality care, coupled with a clear focus on raising standards. The headteacher has forged good links with outside agencies, including local schools, to improve the school's provision for its pupils. The vast majority of parents are pleased with the school's work. As one wrote, 'It is a lovely school and I would recommend it to anyone.' Parents are also pleased with the school's success in minimising disruption to their children's learning during the current building work.
An important feature of the school is the good relationships between adults and pupils. This contributes to pupils' good personal development. They enjoy school, as shown by their excellent attendance. Pupils are keen to learn and behave well. They have a good understanding of how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. They understand the importance of eating a balanced diet and taking part in regular exercise. They participate enthusiastically in the after-schools clubs, which enables them to develop their fitness levels.
Achievement is satisfactory. Pupils make steady progress from their above average starting points on entering Year 1 to reach above average standards overall by the end of Year 6. Standards in science are consistently above average but fluctuate a little more in English and mathematics. Not enough pupils reached the expected levels in writing in the Year 2 national assessments in 2007. Although there are many positive aspects to the satisfactory curriculum, the school recognises that pupils are not given sufficient opportunities to practise different kinds of writing in other subjects. In the assessments at the end of Year 6 in 2007, more able pupils did better in science than in English and mathematics. The school has made considerable progress since then to raise pupils' achievement further. Nonetheless, some more able pupils could still do better and writing at the end of Year 2, and this remains an area of relative weakness.
Teaching overall is satisfactory and is often good. Teachers give clear explanations and encourage pupils to discuss their work. As a result, pupils are keen to participate in lessons. However, in some lessons, teachers do not make effective enough use of assessment information to stretch the more able pupils and their learning is not always moved on swiftly enough.
Leadership and management are satisfactory. Good self-evaluation and a sharply focused school improvement plan have led to many recent improvements. Senior leaders are not complacent and recognise that they need to do more to raise pupils' achievement from satisfactory to good. Governors have a good understanding of the strategic development of the school and provide strong challenge to the school to improve its performance and provision.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children arrive from a range of other early years providers and quickly settle under the good care and guidance of the staff. Parents are pleased with the way that they and their children feel welcomed. They make good progress in all areas of learning because of good teaching and well-planned activities. As a result, many children attain above the expected levels in their personal, social and emotional development and in their literacy and number skills when they enter Year 1. Adults have made effective use of the limited accommodation while major refurbishment work takes place at the school. However, this has restricted the usually good opportunities for outdoor learning.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve writing at the end of Year 2 by providing better opportunities for pupils to practise different kinds of writing across the curriculum.
- Ensure consistency in teachers' use of assessment information to provide greater challenge for more able pupils.
A small proportion of the schools whose overall effectiveness is judged satisfactory but which have areas of underperformance will receive a monitoring visit by an Ofsted inspector before their next section 5 inspection.
Achievement and standards
Standards are above average overall at the end of Year 6, although there is some variation in how well pupils do in different subjects. Pupils attain broadly average standards in English and in mathematics standards range from average to above average for different year groups. Although pupils achieve satisfactorily, some more able pupils have not always done as well as they should in English and in mathematics. This is because work is not always pitched at the right level for them. Standards in science have improved since the last inspection and are above average because of the school's increased focus on investigations. Too few pupils reached the expected levels in writing in the 2007 assessments at the end of Year 2. Pupils' writing skills are lagging behind their skills in reading and in mathematics because of inconsistencies in the challenge of the teaching and too few opportunities for them to carry out different kinds of writing outside of the literacy lesson. Pupils who find learning difficult and minority ethnic pupils make satisfactory progress.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good because the school's leadership places a high priority on this area. Pupils are keen to learn about and celebrate other cultures and ways of life. Pupils develop good relationships with each other. As a result, they work and play together well. They know bullying is wrong and understand what to do if they see, or experience, unacceptable behaviour. The pupil 'red caps' take their responsibilities seriously and strive to ensure all pupils behave well. Pupils also contribute to the school community through the recently reconstituted school council where views are sought and changes made. In addition, they make a good contribution to the wider community by raising funds for charities and representing the school in sporting, art and musical events.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Relationships are good and teachers manage pupils' behaviour well. Teachers provide good opportunities for pupils to work together, which help the children to tackle their work with confidence and enthusiasm. Teachers use questioning strategies effectively to check pupils' understanding and consolidate learning. In some lessons, pupils make only satisfactory progress because the lessons lack a clear focus. Teachers do not always make it sufficiently clear what pupils are to learn and achieve by the end of the lesson. As a result, pupils cannot assess how well they are doing in the lessons. Some teachers do not consistently use their knowledge of pupils' performance to provide extra challenge for more able pupils and this can slow their progress. The skills of teaching assistants are used effectively so that their good support enhances pupils' involvement in their learning and encourages better progress.
Curriculum and other activities
There is a clear emphasis on basic skills which means that pupils are well prepared for the next stage of their education. Teachers are beginning to make links between subjects to make learning more relevant and enjoyable for pupils. However, opportunities for pupils to develop their writing skills, which are becoming increasingly effective in literacy lessons, are not yet planned well enough in other subjects. The curriculum supports pupils' personal development well. Pupils learn about healthy living and how to be safe through the effective personal, social, and health education programme. Provision for pupils who find learning difficult is satisfactory and helps them to make the same progress as their classmates. The curriculum is enhanced well by visits, visitors, and special events such as Arts Week. These effectively support pupils' learning and contribute to their academic and personal development. Pupils also participate enthusiastically in a wide range of clubs and other activities. These add greatly to their enjoyment of school.
Care, guidance and support
Procedures for child protection, risk assessment and health and safety are rigorous. Special attention has been paid to ensuring the safety of pupils during the current building programme. Pupils feel safe in this secure and supportive environment. There are good strategies for dealing with any instances of inappropriate behaviour. This has led to significant improvements in behaviour. The steps taken by the school to promote good attendance are very effective. Teachers are making increasingly effective use of assessment information to track the progress of pupils and to set challenging targets for them. However, these procedures are not yet sharp enough to guide some more able pupils to achieve as well as they can or to inform younger pupils how to improve their writing skills. The quality of marking varies and does not always show pupils how they can improve their work.
Leadership and management
School leaders have identified the key priorities for improvement and have linked their actions to measurable outcomes for pupils. Consequently, the headteacher and governors have a clear idea of the effectiveness of initiatives. As a result, senior leaders have secured good improvement in the teaching of reading and number skills in the Reception class and at Key Stage 1. Science standards are now above average. Behaviour has improved. Issues from the previous inspection have been tackled successfully. Attendance has been maintained at a high level. The monitoring of teaching has not yet succeeded in removing inconsistencies in teaching. More remains to be done to ensure that teachers are making the best use of assessment information to accelerate the progress made by more able pupils. Strategies to raise standards in writing at the end of Year 2 are not yet effective enough. Governors are effective. They keep themselves well-informed through the good quality information provided by the headteacher and their own effective monitoring. School self-evaluation is now good. Consequently, the school has a good grasp and understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Given its track record for improvement this means that it has a good capacity to improve further.