The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector. The following issues were investigated: the pupils' standards and achievement, teaching and learning, and the school's leadership and management. Evidence was gathered from the observation of lessons, discussions with pupils, members of the senior leadership team, six governors and a scrutiny of school documents, the pupils' work and parent questionnaires. 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 evaluations, as given in its self-evaluation form, were not justified.
Description of the school
The school is average in size and it draws pupils from a wide area, which covers several parishes. Most pupils are Catholic and the great majority are White British. All pupils speak English, even though for a few English is not their first language. The number of pupils who need extra support with their learning is very low. Recent changes to the school's admission policy means that more pupils are drawn from the school's immediate vicinity. Currently the attainment of children starting their Reception year is broadly average.
The school has several awards recognising the quality of educational provision: the Artsmark, Healthy Schools Award, Basic Skills Award, information and communication technology mark and, most recently, the Inclusion Quality Mark.
Overall effectiveness of the school
English Martyrs is an excellent school. This is a sought-after school, which enjoys a considerable reputation locally for its all-round high standards. It thrives on a very clear and strong ethos built firmly upon Catholic principles. As a result, every one of its pupils is held in high esteem and it nurtures each one extremely effectively. Pupils are cared for and safeguarded exceedingly well. The Inclusion Quality Mark awarded in July 2007 is a recognition of just how well the school values and involves everyone with a stake in its mission and success. Parents expressing an opinion hold very positive views such as, 'We love the school' and 'I think it is a fantastic school. My child enjoys all aspects of school life.'
The standards achieved by pupils are exceptionally high. Over a number of years they have been very high by the end of Year 2, especially in reading. The number of pupils attaining the higher levels in reading, writing and mathematics is well above average. The performance of boys is quite exceptional in that it is way above that of boys nationally and, unusually, above that of girls as well. The picture is as impressive by the end of Year 6 where, in the past two years, standards in English, mathematics and science have been exceptionally high. The proportion of pupils attaining the higher levels in 2007 was well above average and, again, boys did exceptionally well. Aspects of the curriculum such as themed weeks, 'WoW' days and a new approach to learning writing appeal particularly to boys, as do pupils' targets, self- and peer assessment, all of which the school gives a high profile. Currently, the standards of work in lessons and pupils' books is high and matches the results in previous years. Pupils' achievement is outstanding, which is the result of excellent teaching and learning across the school. Moreover, pupils' attitudes to school are outstanding and they all make impressive efforts to achieve. As a result, pupils are extremely well prepared for the future and are given a flying start for secondary school.
Pupils are exceptionally well behaved and they have a high regard for each other. Many in Year 6 are there as playground 'buddies' to younger pupils and they help them with their lunchtime routines. Pupils derive huge benefit from the values and beliefs promoted so effectively through the school's ethos. They enjoy school enormously, loving the many exciting activities on offer. Not surprisingly, attendance is outstanding. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is excellent and this makes pupils very good learners and citizens. They contribute in many ways, showing responsibility, concern and enthusiasm, especially in their work to support children in Africa, but also for lots of other causes. Pupils devise their own schemes for fundraising, which are many and varied, and they plan all the activities. They are well versed in developing a healthy lifestyle and in their awareness of personal safety.
The very high level of commitment and professionalism of staff makes teaching excellent and ensures that the leadership and management of all of the school's work is outstanding. The quality of staff is matched by that of governors. They provide much expertise and experience to support the school's leadership and management. Right across the school, teaching expertise results in lessons that are planned in great detail. Pupils' work is made interesting, challenging and closely matched to their different capabilities. Teachers and their assistants know pupils very well and have a huge rapport with them. Pupils who find it more difficult to learn than most, including a few who have arrived from Europe and are improving their English, are very well supported in class. Teaching is confident, lively and conducted with a brisk pace. Expectations are high and pupils are thoroughly engaged. Learning involves good measures of exploring, experimenting and opportunities to work independently. Pupils work together very constructively and are impressive in how they evaluate each other's work. Thorough assessment counts significantly towards very strong provision supporting pupils' academic progress. Pupils are closely engaged with their class and individual targets. They really appreciate the guidance these give on how to improve their work, which is complemented with teacher's helpful comments in marking work. The quality of teaching in general and support for new teachers in particular is exceedingly strong as a result of the comprehensive and rigorous monitoring by the school's leaders. The capacity to improve is excellent. This has had a great impact on developing an outstanding curriculum. Its broad variety of work and activities really engage and excite pupils. Learning opportunities in the arts and sports stand out and French is taught to pupils from Year 1 to Year 5. Themed weeks, 'WoW' days, visitors, visits and a whole lot of enjoyable events all make learning so worthwhile. The curriculum provides a variety of opportunities for gifted and talented pupils, particularly through links with secondary schools and Nottingham's universities. However, with such high standards being achieved by many pupils it is appropriate to broaden the programme for the gifted and talented and bring it more to the centre of school's improvement priorities.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Provision is excellent and children in Reception receive an outstanding preparation for starting school. This is the result of very effective leadership and management. Children end their Reception year all having achieved all the learning goals and some exceeding these. Children perform best in their personal, social and emotional development, literacy and creative development. Work and activities are planned in detail with opportunities for learning in all areas. Literacy and numeracy are emphasised strongly and skills are expertly taught. Teaching is outstanding as both structured and free activities engage children thoroughly. They are excited by learning sounds and they use these very skilfully to recognise written words. They all have developed a considerable vocabulary and are confident communicators. Expectations are high and the pace of learning is very good. Children's behaviour is excellent. They socialise and co-operate with each other to an impressive extent.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise the profile of the school's strategy for gifted and talented pupils to increase the range of additional challenges across the curriculum and to include a wider group of higher attaining pupils.