The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This average-sized primary school serves a wide area with some level of social and economic disadvantage. Almost all the pupils are White British and a very small percentage of pupils are at the early stages of learning English. The school also caters for Traveller children. The number of children from this group can vary from year to year, but at the time of the inspection was relatively small. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is average overall, but varies considerably from class to class. The proportion of children with statements of special educational need is above average.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Holy Family is a satisfactory and improving school. Many parents share the view that 'staff are very caring and create an environment which feels more like a family than a school.' As a consequence children feel happy and settled, and develop good personal and social skills. Close links with the church have a significant impact on pupils' spiritual development. For example in preparation for 'moving on' to the next stage of their education, Year 6 pupils gained much from a residential visit to Holy Island.
The formation of a new school leadership team has been the catalyst behind recent school improvement. The headteacher and deputy headteacher work very hard, successfully engaging school staff in continuing school improvement. Raising standards, whilst maintaining the high levels of care, is the main focus of school improvement. To this end, the school's leadership thoroughly tracks the levels of attainment of each pupil. However, teachers do not always use the information gained effectively to match work to pupils' needs.
When they join the Nursery many children's skills are below those typical for their age. By the time children leave the Foundation Stage standards are broadly average, because of the good teaching they receive. Pupils in Key Stage 1 make satisfactory progress overall. At Key Stage 2, standards dropped significantly in 2006, due to a period of staffing instability. The school's leadership took effective action to minimise the impact of the staffing changes and acted swiftly to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Consequently, standards have improved and are now much closer to national averages. However, standards in writing are below average. Despite improvements, inconsistency in teaching and learning remains an issue. Where the teaching is weaker pupils make limited progress. Pupils progress rapidly in response to good teaching. Systems to enable teachers to share best practice to improve the overall quality and consistency of teaching are not embedded. The curriculum is satisfactory, with a strong focus on literacy, numeracy and science. It offers an increasing variety of practical learning opportunities, such as investigative work, which increase pupils' enjoyment of learning.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children are keen to learn and achieve well during their time in the Foundation Stage because of good quality teaching. Staff work well as a team to provide a good level of care, guidance and support and children's progress is particularly strong in the area of personal development. This provides a firm foundation for learning higher up the school. There is a good range of learning activities for children indoors, but opportunities for children to learn outdoors are not planned in as much depth to support their learning.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise pupils' standards and achievement in writing.
- Improve the quality of teaching and learning so that all is in line with the best practice in school.
- For all teachers to make better use of information from tracking and assessments to match work effectively to all pupils' needs.
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
Most children enter Year 1 with broadly average standards. Standards at the end of Year 2 have generally been in line with national averages since the last inspection. In 2007, however, standards fell to just below average. This was largely a result of the profile of the cohort of pupils taking the national tests last year. In 2006, standards in the Year 6 national tests were very low and fell to well below average. Unavoidable staffing changes adversely affected pupils' progress and led to significant underachievement. Following the successful implementation of whole-school strategies to track pupils' progress and address underachievement, standards are now broadly average by the end of Year 6 and pupils' achievement is satisfactory. Standards of writing throughout school, however, still remain below average. Effective strategies are in place to help pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities achieve as well as others.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' personal development and well-being are good. In this school, everyone is made to feel that they matter. Parents comment on the 'lovely, warm and caring environment'. Pupils' spiritual, moral and social development is particularly strong and is supported by very close links with the church. From an early age pupils are able to talk about their own feelings. They are reflective and express their opinions well, knowing they are valued as individuals. Pupils' knowledge and understanding of other faiths and cultures is satisfactory.
Pupils enjoy coming to school, as shown by their considerate behaviour and positive attitudes. 'Learning is really fun!' enthused a group of older pupils. They are developing important life skills, such as listening to others and taking initiative as they work as school councillors and playground friends. Older pupils readily look after younger ones, helping them at playtime and encouraging them to have their say.
Attendance is broadly in line with the national average. Staff work very hard to maintain a positive trend, with the school and local authority providing very good support to improve the attendance of Traveller pupils.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The quality of teaching is satisfactory overall and leads to satisfactory learning. Recently introduced strategies are improving the quality of teaching. Less effective teaching occurs when the level of challenge is insufficient, questioning narrow and when pupils have too few opportunities to work independently. For example, in a minority of lessons at Key Stage 2 the quality of teaching is at times weak and adversely affects the rate of pupils' learning. In the best lessons positive learning relationships are promoted, pupil behaviour is good and they demonstrate an enthusiasm for learning. 'Every second is a learning opportunity so please don't waste it,' urge senior leaders, all of whom have high expectations and set good examples in teaching. There is effective deployment of teaching assistants, who support teaching and learning well.
Curriculum and other activities
The satisfactory curriculum affords opportunites for pupils to investigate and solve problems. It is enhanced with an interesting range of visits and visitors, which add to pupils' enjoyment of learning. Links between subjects are emerging, but are not fully embedded. Consequently, opportunities for pupils to understand how learning in one subject can support study in another are not capitalised upon enough. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities benefit from a range of extra teaching in small groups to boost their progress. Provision for pupils' personal, social and health education has a beneficial impact. It helps them deal with any conflict or problems in a mature and thoughtful way and promotes their understanding about how to keep fit and healthy.
Care, guidance and support
The quality of care and support for pupils is good and helps promote positive attitudes to learning. Pupils who have learning or emotional needs, benefit from very sensitive support. This is enhanced through the work of the learning mentor, teaching assistants and effective liaison with outside agencies. For example, very effective liaison with the agency that supports Traveller pupils ensures that they have extra resources to help them develop their learning whilst they are absent from school. This means they can rejoin their class without having missed too much learning. Arrangements to ensure pupils' health and safety, including child protection, meet requirements. Pupils are becoming increasingly involved in assessing their progress and as a result have a growing understanding of what they need to do to meet their targets.
Leadership and management
Leadership in the school is focused on raising standards and promoting pupils' personal development and well-being. The headteacher and deputy headteacher work well together and the school runs smoothly from day to day. They have created a genuine team spirit amongst staff, and pupils are happy and settled. Many parents appreciate the care given to their children and agree that any issues of concern are dealt with straight away.
Senior leaders accurately evaluate the needs of the school. Over the past year they have successfully implemented a programme to raise standards, with effective support from local authority staff. As a consequence, pupils are now making satisfactory progress. Information from the new systems for tracking pupils' progress is analysed regularly and school leaders have an accurate assessment of levels of attainment across school. The information is used to help improve the performance of key groups of pupils by giving them support. However, it is not yet used extensively enough in all classes, to ensure pupils have the correct degree of challenge to make good progress.
Subject leaders are starting to monitor progress and use this to help raise standards in their areas of responsibility. The greatest impact has been in literacy, numeracy and science. The governing body acts as a critical friend to the school, and carries out its duties well. The school has satisfactory capacity to improve further.