The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector. The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: standards and achievement in mathematics; the quality of pupils' personal development and well-being, pastoral care and the strengths of tracking systems in ensuring that all pupils achieve their best. Evidence was gathered from observations of lessons, discussions with pupils and scrutiny of their work, discussions with the staff and governors, and analysis of the school's documents and parents' questionnaires. Other aspects 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 school, average in size, serves an area characterised by high levels of social and economic disadvantage. The proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals and with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are well above average. A high number of pupils join or leave the school part-way through each year. Most pupils are White British: small proportions are of other ethnic groups. The school has gained the Healthy Schools and Activemark Gold awards.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school with some outstanding features. It provides good value for money. Instrumental in the school's success is the outstanding leadership of the headteacher which promotes pupils' outstanding personal development and the very high quality care that pupils receive. Leadership and management, which are good overall, includes a shared commitment of staff and governors to the belief that every child, and the needs of the child's family are important and valued. It is these aspects that parents wholeheartedly appreciate. A typical comment is, 'Whatever the need, be it a school matter or personal matter, they are there for you.'
Pupils' achievement is good. Pupils begin Year 1 with standards that are usually below those typically expected of their age. Since the last inspection, results in the school's national assessments at Year 2 in reading, writing and mathematics and at Year 6 in English, mathematics and science, have been broadly average. Current standards are in line with these results. The determination of teachers and support staff to remove any barriers to learning is evident in the kind, patient and understanding way in which pupils and their families are treated. As a result of this very effective support, pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and the lower attaining pupils make good progress.
Pupils' spiritual, social, moral and cultural development is outstanding. Their enjoyment of school is reflected in excellent behaviour and enthusiasm for learning. They say they 'love school', feel safe and know there is someone to talk to if they have a problem. Taking part in daily 'wake up and shake up' sessions helps pupils' readiness to learn and develops their awareness of the need to lead a healthy lifestyle. Pupils are very proud of their school and say they feel special in the 'Gorsewood family'. They greatly value opportunities to express their views and the many chances given to represent their school, for example, as school councillors or playground mediators. They take these responsibilities very seriously, for example, when they ensure that everyone is happy and safe in the playground. The older pupils help the younger children and those who arrive part-way through the year benefit to the full from the activities available. The school takes every opportunity to involve pupils in the community through, for example, involving them in deciding which fundraising ventures they wish to support. Within these roles, pupils gain valuable skills that help them prepare for their future. As a result of the very effective work of support staff, attendance levels are improving, although remain below the national average.
The good curriculum includes imaginative links between subjects which give meaning to pupils' learning. An emphasis on creativity successfully promotes pupils' enjoyment of learning and the acquisition of a range of knowledge and skills. This themed approach is relatively new and is building up term by term. The school has yet to monitor how well it serves pupils' needs.
The school does not miss an opportunity, through excellent partnerships and community links, to foster pupils' well-being. Extra-curricular sporting and creative activities, the opportunity to learn to speak French and a breakfast club promote pupils' fitness, health and enjoyment, and are very popular. This good focus through the curriculum on developing positive attitudes to health, fitness and emotional well-being is evident in the awards the school has achieved.
The good progress pupils make throughout the school is the result of good teaching. Strengths in teaching include good use of personal target-setting to involve pupils in their own learning, high quality relationships and high expectations of behaviour. However, in a few lessons, the work set is not always sufficiently challenging to extend the learning of all pupils. The deployment of learning support assistants adds much to pupils' progress. Excellent use is made of outside agencies in helping to ensure that pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those with emotional problems are enabled to take a full part in all the school has to offer.
Good leadership and management have ensured that all previous inspection issues have been addressed and that the school has moved on effectively. The school's accurate self-evaluation ensures that the school knows itself well and contributes to exceedingly clear direction and sustained improvement. As a result, the school is in a good position to improve. Governors understand the school's strengths and priorities. They provide good support and appropriate challenge to the school's leaders. Arrangements are in place to meet health and safety requirements, including child protection procedures. Leaders and managers closely monitor pupils' progress to ensure that targets are met. This is particularly successful in ensuring that those who find learning difficult are given great care and support which enables them to enjoy school and make good progress.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
A significant proportion of children enter Reception with skills that are well below those typical for their age, in particular in writing and using letter sounds. Good quality teaching ensures that children receive a good start to their education. Daily learning of letters and sounds help to boost children's skills in reading and writing. Activities are well chosen to encourage children's independence and care of others. Leadership and management are good; assessment information is used well to match tasks to children's needs in the classroom and in the outdoor environment. This allows children to achieve well in all areas of learning, although by the time children leave the Foundation Stage most are working towards the levels typically expected. There are excellent partnerships with parents, who appreciate the welcoming ethos and excellent care their children receive. Links with the adjacent pre-school are well developed and enable a smooth transition to the Reception year.
What the school should do to improve further
- Monitor changes in the curriculum to ensure that pupils' needs are always fully met.