The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector. The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: achievement and standards, with a particular emphasis on higher attainers in Key Stage 1 and mathematics and science in Key Stage 2; teachers’ use of assessment and target-setting; and the quality of leadership and management in the school, with a particular focus on monitoring. Evidence was gathered from lesson observations, the scrutiny of pupils’ work, school assessment data and documentation and discussions with staff and pupils. 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
This is a smaller than average sized primary school. Two thirds of the pupils attending the school live in the village of Ettington. Almost all of the pupils attending the school come from White British backgrounds. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below average, as is the proportion who are entitled to free school meals. A building programme to improve classroom and office accommodation has recently been completed. At the time of the inspection, the headteacher had been in post for three weeks.
Overall effectiveness of the school
The overall effectiveness of the school is satisfactory. This is a school that has drifted in recent times. The staff have not been provided with the leadership necessary to ensure all pupils make good progress. Standards at Key Stage 1 have been falling and the school has not acted decisively enough to arrest this fall. However, under the leadership of the consultant headteacher in the last two terms, and the new headteacher this term, the school is rediscovering the drive and commitment needed to bring about improvement.
The school is popular with the parents and numbers are growing steadily. The great majority of parents express support for the school, but a minority feel that more could be done to stretch the brightest pupils and they are correct. The school is a very happy place. The pupils really enjoy school and everyone gets along well together.
Standards are above average but achievement is only satisfactory overall. It is not yet good because of the considerable variation in performance between the key stages. When they start at the school, children have skills and abilities that are above national expectations. They make good progress in the Foundation Stage and are well prepared for the next stage in their education. Standards in Key Stage 1, as measured by end of key stage assessments, have been falling in recent years from well above average to broadly average. Current standards, as seen in the pupils' books, are a little higher than this. Lower and middle attaining pupils are currently making satisfactory progress in Key Stage 1. This is not always the case for higher attaining pupils, especially in writing. The rate of progress accelerates considerably in Key Stage 2, where all pupils make good progress in Years 3 to 6, with many reaching the higher levels in the national assessments. Here, standards in mathematics and science have been exceptionally high in recent years. However, this is not the case in all classes and progress in writing is only satisfactory overall. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are well supported and make good progress throughout the school.
Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. The school grounds have been developed well and provide the pupils with a very good range of stimulating environments in which to work and play. Behaviour in and around the school is good and the pupils are an overwhelmingly happy bunch who are proud of their school and enjoy being with their friends. Attendance is good. They have a good understanding of how to keep safe and have a sound grasp of what they need to do to stay healthy. School meals are popular and pupils are increasingly bringing healthy snacks to school. Relationships between the pupils and with the staff are relaxed. This enables the pupils to develop good self-confidence and assurance in social situations. Consequently, they work well together in lessons and the school playground is a happy and welcoming place. The recently adopted, more creative approach to curriculum planning is firing the imagination of the pupils and further enhancing their enjoyment of learning.
The quality of teaching and learning is satisfactory overall. The pupils respond well when they are offered practical activities that engage their imagination. For example, during the inspection a class of older pupils was observed to be fully involved and making good progress in a drama lesson where they were asked to work in groups to solve a mystery and act out part of the story. Expectations of what the higher attaining pupils can do are sometimes too low. They are often set the same work as the rest of the class when they are capable of more. Consequently, they do not make the progress they should, particularly in writing. The quality of marking, although satisfactory overall, is variable and does not always tell the pupils what they need to do to improve.
The curriculum is improving, but is not yet good because the school has not amended it to address the weaknesses in standards at Key Stage 1. There are also occasions when the curriculum does not stretch the higher attaining pupils well enough to enable them to make good progress. It is generally broad and balanced although there has been a strong emphasis on the core subjects of English, mathematics and science in the latter part of Year 6 to the detriment of other subjects. Provision for musical tuition is good with approximately a third of the pupils learning to play an instrument. A small number of school clubs and the bi-annual residential visit enrich the curriculum. In addition, the Children's University provides a range of additional activities for the pupils to enjoy. Plans are in place to increase the number of school clubs.
Pastoral care is good. The staff know the pupils well and the pupils report that they feel safe in school and have confidence that the staff will provide help if they need it. Recent steps have been taken to make the school environment a safer place for the pupils, and arrangements to ensure staff working at the school are suitable to work with children are robust. The school recognises that some of its health and safety policy documentation is in need of review. The school is beginning to track the progress of each pupil. However, this information is not yet used effectively by all class teachers to guide planning, particularly for the higher attaining pupils and in writing in Key Stage 1.
The new headteacher has made a positive start and the staff have responded very well to her leadership. They share a commitment and a strong determination to address the issues facing the school. She has correctly identified the key priorities for the school and has produced appropriate improvement plans. Recent changes, such as the revised marking policy and the creative curriculum planning, are already bringing about improvement. The school has been very successful at Key Stage 2 in recent years, but action was not taken to address the fall in standards in Key Stage 1. Consequently, the school has not been effective in promoting improvement since the last inspection. However, continued good standards in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 2 along with the new drive and enthusiasm in the school mean that the school does have the capacity to improve.
Governors provide good support to the headteacher. The new build has been managed well and this has enhanced and improved the accommodation. Financial planning is satisfactory. The governors recognise that their role in monitoring the standards in the school has been weak. However, they are now fully informed and able to hold the school to account. Senior staff have limited opportunities to monitor the work of the school. Consequently, they are not fully aware of what needs to be done to bring about improvement in each class.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Provision in the Foundation Stage is good. Parents value the supportive environment and the care their children receive when they start school. The school induction procedures ensure children settle quickly, and lively teaching, supported by good planning, ensures they make good progress. Because expectations are high, children develop skills and abilities that are above national expectations in all areas of learning. The curriculum is broad and good use is made of the outside environment to support early learning.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise standards in Key Stage 1, particularly for higher attaining pupils and for all pupils in writing.
- Ensure assessment information is used better to plan activities that challenge and extend the higher attaining pupils in all classes.
- Develop more rigorous systems that involve senior staff for checking on the quality of teaching and learning in the school in order to bring about improvement.
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 the next section 5 inspection.