The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Herne Bay Junior is a larger than average junior school in which there are few pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds. The percentage of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is high, whilst the number of pupils with statements for their particular learning needs is low. The new headteacher has only been in the school for just over a year and there have been other staff changes and new buildings at the school.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school and a happy school. 'My daughter is always happy going to school. What more could a parent want?' writes one mother. Achievement is good. The school has closely tracked the progress of the current Year 6 pupils from their starting points in Year 3, and they have done well to reach solidly average standards. Pupils' good achievement is largely due to good teaching, especially in English and science. The part played by teaching assistants in this is very important. They not only work well under teachers' guidance, but also can work equally well on their own initiatives. Teaching is good overall, as reflected in the good progress made, with relationships being particularly strong. Questioning is good and, because relationships are so positive, little time is wasted with behaviour issues. As a result, the pace of lessons is high. Sometimes, this is not the case and some pupils lose their focus. Teaching in mathematics is at least satisfactory across the school, with some good features. It is the teaching of mathematics and standards within the subject that the school now seeks to improve. Careful changes to the curriculum, joining some subjects together, has a motivating effect on pupils as does the use of interactive whiteboards and other aspects of information and communication teachnology (ICT). The school is well led and managed, especially by the headteacher and senior managers. The headteacher and his senior team are managing change well, with their colleagues feeling involved and appreciated. Most recently promoted subject leaders are still too new in post to have had a chance to affect standards in their subjects. The school works well with the local authority and with other agencies. It has good relationships with the adjacent infant school. Alongside pupils' good progress, their personal development is excellent. This is because the school cares and supports them in an exemplary fashion. Pupils feel really safe and parents know this to be true. Pupils thoroughly enjoy their school days and their very positive attitudes to their work have an effect on the progress they make. The guidance that the school can offer its pupils is currently somewhat limited because class teachers' access to assessment information is not as easy as it might be. However, teachers mark work satisfactorily and provide targets for pupils in literacy, but not yet in numeracy. Pupils know their targets and work towards them. Initiatives to improve writing and reading have had positive outcomes; however, there are other initiatives that have not yet been evaluated. As a result, the school's capacity to improve is satisfactory rather than good at this stage.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve standards and achievement in mathematics across the school by raising the quality of teaching, making use of the renewed framework for numeracy, and matching activities more closely to the needs of all pupils.
- Provide opportunities for the continuing professional development of middle leaders and managers to ensure they have a strong overview of their subjects and can positively affect standards.
- Enable teachers to make more informed checks on pupils' progress, through more readily accessible assessment information, so that they can plan more effectively for pupils' next steps in learning.
Achievement and standards
Over time, standards have mirrored the national trends in English, mathematics and science, with the latter falling slightly in 2007. The school's data strongly suggest that standards have improved for the current Year 6 pupils, who have made good progress since joining the school in Year 3. In all three subjects, pupils make good progress from their starting points. This is now particularly the case in science, reading and writing. Initiatives put in place to improve standards in these areas have proved successful. In mathematics, whilst standards are at least satisfactory in the current Year 6, they fluctuate in the rest of the school. The school has not yet put into effect initiatives to improve standards in mathematics. Standards of work seen in ICT are in line with expectations, and ICT skills are used well in aspects of literacy. Vulnerable groups, such as those who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities, make the same good progress as their classmates because of the very good support they receive.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils thoroughly enjoy school and take great delight in learning. Behaviour throughout the school is excellent and pupils know exactly what is expected of them. This has a positive impact on their learning. Their social and moral development is outstanding. Pupils are polite, courteous and have developed a sensitive approach to life and everyday issues. They clearly appreciate the achievement of others. In spite of visits to a range of places of worship, pupils have not developed a clear understanding of living in a culturally diverse society. Pupils are proud of their school and feel extremely safe and free from problems such as bullying. In spite of the efforts made by the school, attendance is just below average, caused in the main by parents taking their children out of school for holidays. Pupils are clear about healthy lifestyle issues and can readily explain a 'balanced diet'. 'The new school meals are fantastic. Better than home cooking', one parent notes. Many pupils start the day with 'Wake and Shake' exercises and more pupils want to take part in after-school sports clubs than there are spaces available. The school council is an effective voice for pupils and contributes well to the day-to-day life of the school. 'My son is in school council', writes one mother, 'and he enjoys putting forward ideas from his class.' Through fundraising for a range of charities and good causes, pupils gain a clear understanding of those less fortunate than themselves. Pupils have a good range of skills that prepares them well for life beyond school. For example, many were busy organising their own stalls ready for the summer fair.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Both teaching and learning are good, with pupils enjoying their lessons and making good progress in their work. They know how to improve their work and, in literacy, they have a clear picture of their next steps in learning. Tasks are generally set to challenge all groups within classes, although in some cases the challenge for the most able pupils is not enough. This is also the case within sets for mathematics where, although pupils are grouped by ability, the challenge for the most able could be greater. Teaching assistants give good support to a range of vulnerable pupils who make the same good progress as their peers. Teachers assess prior knowledge well through questioning and behaviour is very well managed because of the excellent relationships adults have with pupils. Outstanding behaviour allows much work to be carried out in pairs and groups, with all pupils being confident to answer questions and express views. The difference seen between good and satisfactory lessons is best noted in the pace of learning. Where pace drops, pupils sometimes lose focus on their work, whilst in lessons where the pace is brisk, pupils are motivated, keen to work, show excellent attitudes and make good progress.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is stimulating with excellent links made between subjects. In Year 4, literacy tasks are related to pupils' visit to the National Gallery, for example. Good use is made of the locality, with pupils visiting the beach prior to painting in the style of Alfred Wallis. Themed days and weeks add further interest to the good curriculum. A visit to Chatham Docks and a talk from a Battle of Britain pilot created much interest in the World War 2 topic. An element of the curriculum, which is not as well developed, is the provision for pupils to gain an awareness of the multi-cultural nature of today's society in which they live. Pupils have access to a wide range of club activities, which they say offers them 'things we can't do at home', and helps them learn 'new skills and how to work as a team'. However, because of the size of the school, not all activities can be available to all pupils.
Care, guidance and support
This is an exceptionally caring school and this plays a significant part in the level of enjoyment pupils get from their time at school. The focus on social and moral development results in pupils who are confident and happy. All arrangements for safeguarding pupils are robustly in place. All vulnerable groups are well supported and as a result, they make good progress. Teaching assistants give good and consistent support to a range of pupils and work well, using their own initiative. The school is revisiting its assessment procedures. Currently, although there are termly progress meetings to discuss the progress made by all pupils, assessment information is not readily accessible to teachers on a very much more regular basis. Consequently, teaching does not always challenge all pupils and take them from their current levels of understanding. The marking of pupils' work is satisfactory, and often shows pupils how to improve, although this is less consistent in mathematics.
Leadership and management
Effective leadership and management ensure an equal focus on pupils' personal development and their academic achievement. The school has travelled through some important changes in the very recent past. A change in headship, changes in staff and significant accommodation changes have all been managed well, with only minimal effect on pupils' progress. The headteacher has a very clear view about what needs to be improved in order to raise standards and support higher achievement. He provides good leadership and has re-established a network of middle managers, including a senior management team, year team leaders and subject leaders. This has had the effect of creating a collegiate feel in the school, with morale high, and all feel they are contributing to the school's success. Self-evaluation is well developed, and arises from the range and quality of the layers of leadership. The most senior middle leaders are sure of their roles and effectively gather information about the school in order to evaluate performance and suggest initiatives for improvement. The most recently appointed subject leaders, who took up their posts in April, are keen to take on tasks and already have some basic knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of their subjects. The school's Development Day brings together staff and governors, in order to discuss the next part of the school's improvement journey. It is mainly the senior management team that has monitored teaching and learning and given support to improve the quality of teaching. Governors are supportive and involved. They too know the strengths and weaknesses of the school and make individual links with subject leaders. They are becoming more informed and this is allowing them to ask questions of the school and hold it to account for its performance.