The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and one Additional Inspector.
Description of the school
Henry Whipple Primary School is an average size school that opened in September 2007 and was created from the amalgamation of two former schools. Many of the staff from the two schools, including the headteacher, transferred to Henry Whipple. The school is set in the heart of a large housing estate in an area of high social disadvantage, and the majority of its pupils live on the estate. Most are from White British backgrounds and the proportion of pupils entitled to receive a free school meal is more than double the national average. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is well above the national average.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Henry Whipple provides pupils with a satisfactory education. The challenges of establishing a new primary school have dominated the life of Henry Whipple in recent months and represent a significant achievement for all. Questionnaires and discussion with the Parents' Council show that parents are pleased by what the school provides. One parent expressed the views of many when writing, 'my child really enjoys school and gets on well with her teacher and the other children in her class'.
Pupils' achievement is satisfactory. From starting points that are below national expectations, and in some cases well below, children in the Foundation Stage Unit make at least satisfactory progress. Progress throughout Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 is satisfactory and by the time they leave, standards in mathematics and science are just below average. Weaknesses in some of pupils' basic literacy skills limit their progress in English. Progress is not as rapid as in mathematics or science and consequently standards fall below average. A key priority is to raise standards further.
The pupils' satisfactory achievement reflects broadly satisfactory teaching. At Key Stage 2 in particular, teachers often set their sights too low when pitching objectives because they do not analyse with sufficient insight what the pupils do, or do not understand. Lessons do not sufficiently challenge pupils and marking lacks precision about what the pupils need to do to improve next. Whilst monitoring of teaching and learning has taken place, it has lacked sufficient rigour to ensure that all pupils make at least good progress in their learning. The curriculum is satisfactory and recent developments are ensuring that there is a more cross-curricular approach to planning. The care, guidance and support provided for pupils are satisfactory overall and the school provides a safe, happy and friendly place to learn. The school is beginning to monitor closely the progress of individual pupils through recently introduced systems for assessment, tracking and target setting.
Relationships are positive and reflect pupils' satisfactory personal development. The school takes good care in supporting individuals and in boosting self-esteem. Pupils who find learning difficult, such as those with social and behavioural difficulties, are supported well, for example, through the learning mentor. Pupils are happy and talk enthusiastically about how they enjoy coming to school. A small minority of pupils with irregular attendance is being effectively monitored and supported. Pupils are responding positively to the good opportunities they are being given to influence their new school through the school council. An appropriate emphasis on developing healthy lifestyles helps pupils know how to keep healthy and fit.
Leadership and management are satisfactory and are committed to taking the school forward. The headteacher and deputy headteacher are successfully uniting the staff team and raising expectations of how pupils' academic standards can be improved. Despite a number of vacancies following amalgamation, the governing body is committed to being involved in both shaping the school's direction and challenging its effectiveness.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
The welcoming and purposeful atmosphere of the Foundation Stage unit gives children a secure and happy start to school, and this helps them to achieve well. The high quality care, guidance and support ensure that children make particularly good progress in their personal, social and emotional development. Children's positive attitudes to work and their ability to work and play together happily, provide them with a secure foundation for the next stage in their learning. Teaching is satisfactory and all staff, including teaching assistants, are developing a good understanding of how young children learn. The bright and well-planned learning environment ensures that children have equal access to all six areas of learning. A high priority is placed on learning through play, both indoors and outdoors. The staff make perceptive observations of the children's learning and track their development carefully. Parents appreciate the weekly 'stay and play' sessions and these are well attended. The new Foundation Stage leader is providing satisfactory leadership and management and has a clear vision for the future development of this integrated Foundation Stage Unit.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise standards throughout the school in literacy, numeracy and science
- Improve the overall quality of teaching and learning by ensuring that all pupils are challenged to work hard and that marking tells pupils what they need to do to improve
- Monitor the quality of teaching and learning more rigorously.
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
Achievement and standards are satisfactory overall because pupils are making broadly satisfactory progress across the school from starting points that are below, or in some cases well below, national expectations. Children in the Foundation Stage soon start to catch up, but the majority still enter Year 1 with lower than expected skills. Progress throughout Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 is satisfactory. Standards in Year 2 and Year 6 are lower than average, particularly in writing. The recently introduced target setting and tracking systems in literacy and numeracy are beginning to provide pupils with a clearer understanding of the next steps needed in their learning, including their writing, to improve further. Analysis of assessment data is being used to ensure that groups of learners who may be underachieving are identified, and set appropriate, but challenging targets. The latest teacher assessments indicate that the trend is now upward. The school has set realistic, but challenging targets for the current Year 6 to attain in 2008. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities make at least satisfactory progress because tasks and support are carefully matched to individual need.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' personal development, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is satisfactory, and enables them to make a positive contribution to the school and wider community. The school successfully fosters strong and caring relationships among its pupils. They have very positive attitudes and enjoy coming to school. Pupils' behaviour is good overall. They are polite and courteous to visitors and proudly welcome them to their school. Pupils say that bullying is rare and that they have confidence in their teachers to deal with it. Although attendance is below the national average, the school has effective procedures to encourage regular attendance. Members of the school council take their role seriously and are helping to make improvements to the school playground facilities. Most pupils understand and adopt habits that contribute to a safe and healthy lifestyle, as reflected in their snacks and lunches. Pupils' basic skills in mathematics and information and communication technology (ICT) are satisfactory, but they lack sufficient literacy skills to support them fully in their adult lives.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The quality of teaching and learning is satisfactory overall. The calm and supportive manner in which teachers manage the pupils and organise their tasks is a consistent and dominant feature of teaching throughout the school. As a result of this important strength, pupils feel secure and work conscientiously. Where teaching is good, there is an atmosphere of high expectation in which pupils are fully engaged with their learning, enjoy stimulating activities and make good progress. Slow pace and insufficient match of task to the ability of pupils are common factors in the otherwise satisfactory lessons. Classroom assistants make an important contribution to lessons by providing effective levels of support to those pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those needing extra support and care. The inconsistency and lack of precision in marking hinders pupils from understanding what they need to do to improve.
Curriculum and other activities
Curriculum provision is satisfactory. The curriculum for personal and social development supports pupils well and gives vulnerable pupils the confidence to contribute in lessons. Provision for ICT has been limited since the new school opened due to a number of difficulties beyond the control of the school. However, this is now being addressed to ensure greater access for all pupils. The curriculum includes a satisfactory focus on developing pupils' basic skills in English and mathematics. Teachers and teaching assistants ensure that the small proportion of pupils from minority ethnic groups and those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities enjoy full access to the curriculum. Pupils' personal development and enjoyment are promoted well through a good range of after-school clubs, as well as excursions and visitors to the school.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support for pupils are satisfactory overall. Pastoral care is good because of the positive relationships that exist at all levels within the school. These are built on confidence and trust and consequently, pupils feel valued. Pupils say they feel safe in school and know that there is always someone they can go to if they have any worries or concerns. The role of the learning mentor offers a valuable source of support, particularly for older pupils. Vulnerable children are supported well through robust child protection and vetting procedures. Bullying and racist incidents are rare and handled firmly, but sensitively. The school has good links with parents and outside agencies to support pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Academic guidance for pupils is satisfactory. Individual targets are set for pupils in literacy and numeracy, but these are not well enough linked to marking, to help pupils achieve as well as they can.
Leadership and management
The leadership team has been successful in bringing together the staff from the former schools to create one caring and resourceful team. The school's self-evaluation demonstrates that the school knows what it needs to do to improve. There are suitable plans for school improvement. Senior managers are beginning to gather the information necessary to inform them of the school's progress through the implementation of new procedures for target setting and individual pupil progress tracking. However, insufficient rigour has been applied to the monitoring of teaching and learning. Newly appointed subject and phase leaders are growing into their leadership roles and already have a good understanding of some of the strengths and areas for development in their subject areas. There is a clear priority on raising standards and new performance management systems hold teachers accountable for the standards achieved by their pupils. The governing body is very supportive of the school but recognises the need to act more perceptively as a 'critical friend'. The school's capacity for further improvement is satisfactory.