The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The school is slightly larger than average. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is well above the national average. Higher than average numbers of pupils are from minority ethnic groups as are the numbers who do not have English as their first language. The number of pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities is also well above average. However, the number of pupils with statements of special need is below average. Most of the children begin school with skills which are far below those expected in many areas of development but particularly in language skills.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Heathfield Primary School is a good school, in which pupils make good progress. Central to this is the leadership by the headteacher. It is his vision of educating the whole child which has ensured that pupils achieve as well as they do. He is supported in this by a good senior management team, committed staff and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable chair of governors.
Children make satisfactory progress in the Nursery and Reception classes due to an appropriate early years' curriculum. Despite their progress, children's low starting points when they entered the Foundation Stage mean that their attainment is still low as they enter Year 1, because their communication, language and literacy skills remain weak.
By the end of Year 2, pupils have successfully built on this sound start and have made good progress. This is maintained and by the end of Year 6, progress, including the progress made by pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities, is good. This is due in a large part to good teaching and a good curriculum which interest and motivates pupils in most subjects. However, overall standards remain below average especially in mathematics, science and English, where there are particular weaknesses in pupils' writing which act as a barrier to their reaching higher levels in national tests. The school has rightly identified this as an area for development and has already put actions into place to remedy this weakness. Pupils' behaviour and attitudes are good. The school is aware of the need to establish a consistency of best practice for all teachers. In the most effective lessons, appropriate pace and challenge, together with skilful classroom management promotes a positive learning ethos. This gives pupils, especially those who start at the school at different times, a strong foundation for the next stage of their education. However, some lessons lack pace. As a result learning slows down.
The personal development and well-being of pupils are good and are well supported by the good care and guidance pupils receive. There is good provision for pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development which results in a positive, inclusive learning environment. The school caters very well for those pupils who need most support. Pupils feel safe and very well cared for. Parents have confidence in the school. As one parent commented, 'My daughter has had her gifts and talents recognised and the school has given her opportunities to flourish in them.' All these factors make a significant contribution to pupils' good achievement. The school gives good value for money.
The school has tackled the issues from the last inspection effectively. Good leadership and management, based on an accurate assessment of the school's strengths and weaknesses, have led to the school's good record of improvement in several areas since the time of the last inspection. This record, together with the school's determined planning for the future, shows that its capacity to improve further is good.
What the school should do to improve further
- Find ways to make writing tasks more appealing to pupils so that they are more motivated and standards rise.
- Ensure that all lessons have good pace and challenge in line with the best practice, so that good teaching is consistent throughout the school.
Achievement and standards
Achievement is good. However, progress through the different phases of pupils' education is uneven. Progress of children in the Foundation Stage is satisfactory. As they enter Nursery with low standards few children reach the goals expected of their age by the time they enter Year 1. Standards at the end of Year 2 have been far below average over recent years. Inspection findings and the school's assessment information indicate that current standards are closer to average. This represents good progress. Similarly, standards at Year 6 have risen from exceptionally low at the time of the last inspection to below average currently. This also indicates good progress. Pupils who find learning hard receive good support that enables them to make good progress towards their learning goals. There are no significant differences in the progress made by pupils of different gender, ethnicity or ability. Achievement in writing has been a particular problem recognised by the school because too many pupils find it hard; lose interest and motivation. The school has introduced a range of measures, such as 'themed' weeks which have had some success in encouraging pupils' free and expanded writing. However, standards in writing are below those in other subjects. The school surpassed its targets in 2006 and has set more challenging ones for 2007.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' personal development, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, is good. They enjoy coming to school and say that teachers make their lessons enjoyable, though they also say literacy is not as interesting as some other subjects. Pupils say that there is no bullying in school but that if they had worries they would talk to a member of staff who 'would sort things out'. Behaviour has improved since the last inspection and is now good. A small minority of pupils find it hard to behave well all the time but the staff, including the learning mentor and teaching assistants, work hard and successfully support them. This helps them to learn to control themselves increasingly effectively. Older pupils enjoy taking responsibility around the school, supporting others as playground buddies, or being on the school council. While pupils know what healthy food is, they still sometimes choose biscuits rather than fruit for break time snacks. They enjoy energetic play and physical education lessons. The school helps them to develop good social skills so that they work and play well together and grow in maturity. Attendance has improved but remains below average despite the good efforts of the school to persuade parents not to take holidays in school time.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good overall, although a small proprortion is only satisfactory. The lack of signifant changes to the workforce has enabled staff to work well as a team; supporting each other to produce generally good classroom practice. As a result, pupils achieve well. Teachers know that developing confidence and competence, especially in spoken and written English, is a critical goal for the pupils and appropriate emphasis is given to this. In the best lessons, teachers have very good relationships with pupils and high expectations of their behaviour. As a result, pupils are very keen to learn. Pupils are challenged effectively and lessons move at a brisk pace. Pupils say that these lessons are fun because they are hard work and make them think. They like the way teachers' marking tells them what was good about their work and what they need to do in order to improve it. Teachers plan well to ensure that the learning needs of all pupils are met. In the less effective lessons, pace and challenge are not always sufficient to maintain pupils' involvement and they are not encouraged sufficiently to be independent learners. Classrooms are visually stimulating and help to create a positive atmosphere where learning is exciting. The school makes very good use of the skills and expertise of additional teaching and support staff. They work intensively and very effectively with identified groups of pupils with particular needs.
Curriculum and other activities
The school provides a good curriculum. Since the last inspection, weaknesses in subjects such as information and communication technology have been successfully addressed. Music is a particular strength. The Foundation Stage curriculum strikes the right balance between independent and adult led activities, ensuring children make a satisfactory beginning at school. Throughout the school, a good personal, social and health education programme promotes pupils' positive attitudes. Pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities and those who are gifted and talented are catered for well by the curriculum. Themed events, such as 'History Week', successfully bring the curriculum alive by fostering excitement, independence and creativity. Numerous initiatives to promote active lifestyles, combined with a wealth of very popular clubs, enable pupils to develop a sound understanding of how to stay healthy. Pupils appreciate the very good range of visits organised by the school and the contribution of visitors in helping to make learning enjoyable.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are good. Staff are particularly good at helping pupils who were unsettled in their previous school to thrive at this one because of the good pastoral care and support they provide. As a result the school is a friendly and happy place where all pupils, whatever their ability, gender or ethnic background, are included in all school activities. Pupils stay safe because all the required procedures are in place to ensure their safety and welfare. The school has effective systems to check how well pupils are doing and to identify those who need extra help. Good links with outside agencies help to ensure that those with the greatest needs receive the support they require to progress well in their learning and social development. Pupils have suitably challenging targets to aim for in reading, writing and mathematics. However, some pupils are unclear about the level they are working at and what they need to do to reach the next one. Although the school supports pupils very effectively, there is scope for staff to encourage a small number to become more resourceful and independent.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are good. There is a real sense of teamwork and high expectations throughout the school. These factors, along with strong leadership by the headteacher, have brought about marked improvements, for example, in pupils' behaviour, and resulted in the school's good overall effectiveness. The headteacher leads his team well. He, along with the governing body, has a clearly focused vision for the development of the school. There are good procedures in place for day-to-day management. The school's evaluation of its strengths and weaknesses is accurate. The leadership team focuses sharply on the school's key priorities which are always linked to the best interests of the pupils. A more stable staff since the last inspection has meant that key issues such as reviewing the curriculum and raising standards have been successful and pupils achieve well. Nevertheless, the head and staff are not complacent and realise that there is still more to do.
The governors are clear about the school's strengths and weaknesses. They act effectively as 'critical friends'. They are supportive of the drive to raise standards and are challenging in their expectations of what the school can achieve.