The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Holywell is a Voluntary Aided, Church of England middle school. It mainly serves children from the two villages of Cranfield and Wootton. A significant number of pupils come from overseas each year to be with their parents at Cranfield University. Five per cent of pupils have English as an additional language. Pupils' attainment on entry to the school is above average. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is well below the national average. The percentage of pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities is below the national average. Amongst its awards, the school has achieved Healthy School Status, Artsmark, Sportsmark, the Community Rugby Award and the Football Association Charter.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a satisfactory school with good capacity to improve further. In recent years, the school has reached a plateau so that progress across the school is now only satisfactory. In 2007, the school did not meet its challenging targets, although standards in national tests have been above average for several years. Pupils are on track to come closer to meeting their targets in the 2008 tests. The satisfactory progress is largely due to satisfactory teaching. There are strengths in teaching, particularly in the good relationships teachers have with their classes and good classroom management. However, teachers do not always plan creatively to provide challenging work for the different abilities in their classes or track progress consistently. The monitoring of teaching and the work of departments by subject co-ordinators is not sufficiently rigorous. The curriculum is good and there are excellent enrichment activities and a good range of extra-curricular clubs and sports events.
The school does well to create a harmonious and cohesive learning environment amongst the different nationalities. As one Year 6 pupil remarked, 'We all get along really well.' Attendance is good. Pupils are keen to say that they feel safe in school and are very well looked after. The majority of parents agree that their children enjoy school and that they are safe and well cared for, although several had concerns about the school's communication with them. Personal development is good and pupils generally behave well. Pupils are curious and lively and really enjoy their learning. They are articulate and mature and seize responsibilities enthusiastically. Pupils lead healthy lives and grow in confidence during their time in the school. They make a positive contribution to the school and wider community through a range of organised activities. They are well prepared for future working life through participation in events, such as the Go to Work with your Parent Day.
Leadership and management are satisfactory. The headteacher resigned at Christmas and the two deputies have taken over as acting headteachers. They are doing a good job in difficult circumstances, and in a very short time they have begun to take effective steps to improve achievement, such as improving the analysis and use of data and implementing a new behaviour policy. An extensive new building programme has been an extra barrier to the smooth functioning of the school. A new headteacher has been appointed and will take up post in September.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise achievement in core subjects by consistently tracking pupils' progress across the school and intervening appropriately when needed.
- Improve the quality of teaching so that all learners can achieve their full potential.
- Ensure rigour and consistency in the monitoring and evaluation of the work of subject departments.
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
Pupils make satisfactory progress across the school. They enter the school in Year 5 with above average results and by the age of eleven, they attain above average standards in English, mathematics and science. Results have fluctuated over the last three years. In 2007, attainment was above average in English and science and average in mathematics. Pupils achieve satisfactorily throughout the school, although the more able do not always reach their full potential. Pupils with learning difficulties do as well as expected. Those whose first language is not English tend to do well.
The school did not meet its targets for English, mathematics and science in 2007. The biggest gap between the target and the result was in mathematics, which was 12% below target for level 4 or above and 16% below target for level 5. The targets for level 5 in English and science were missed by 10% and 13% respectively. The school recognises the need to improve the percentage of pupils who obtain the higher levels, and has put some revision and booster sessions in place to help. The Year 6 targets for 2008 remain challenging, although the school's assessment information suggests that they will come nearer to meeting them this year.
Pupils' standards in other subjects are generally above average, which reflects their attainment when they come into the school. They make satisfactory progress until the end of Year 8.
Personal development and well-being
The overwhelming majority of pupils enjoy school, as shown by their good attendance. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural awareness is good, as reflected in their tolerance for the views, values and beliefs of other pupils. Pupils say that they feel safe in school and that there are few racist and bullying incidents. Where bullying does happen, it is low level and is dealt with promptly and rigorously. Behaviour is good and most pupils behave well in lessons. However, movement around the school can be boisterous. Pupils say they know the behaviour expectations clearly and are motivated by the house point system.
Pupils understand the importance of healthy eating and drinking, but the take up of healthy school lunches has decreased. The development of good awareness of these issues has been raised by initiatives such as Food Week and the input of a dietician. High numbers of pupils take part in extra-curricular sports activities and competitive matches against other houses and schools. Pupils make good progress in preparation for their future economic well-being. This is mainly because personal, social, health and citizenship education lessons have been re-planned to include work beginning in Year 5 and continuing throughout school. Pupils make a good contribution to their school community by serving as sports captains, house captains and form representatives. The school council plays an active part in school life helping to introduce a games area and they were involved in the interviews for the new headteacher.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching is satisfactory and no inadequate teaching was seen. Good features were observed, such as the specialist knowledge teachers have of their subjects. In addition, they have good relationships with pupils and manage behaviour in lessons well. In a few lessons, effective use is made of self and peer assessment, but too often teachers do not use assessment and tracking data to tell pupils how well they are doing and what they need to do to improve. There is some good use made of information and communication technology (ICT), for example in a Year 5 geography lesson where pupils used an interactive whiteboard to learn the location of different places on a world map. However, planning of lessons is a weaker aspect because teachers do not plan to meet the learning needs of individual pupils. This leads to teaching which lacks imagination and not enough being expected of more able pupils. Pupils often drive the learning forwards themselves by asking questions and seeking further explanations.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum provides a broad range of work and activities, for example, all pupils study French and those in Years 7 and 8 drama also. Pupils' exceptional enjoyment of school is the result of the wide range of excellent additional opportunities, which are planned to improve their skills and understanding, whilst at the same time making learning interesting and fun. Pupils have taken part in French Week, Big Arts Week, Science Week, and have been involved in projects such as those with the Northampton Shoe Museum and a car manufacturer.
Pupils' spiritual and moral understanding is developed well through assemblies, lessons and projects involving local clergy, such as the recent 'Wedding Experience.' There are a good number of educational visits every year, as well as visitors to the school who involve pupils in special events. Many of these help develop pupils' cultural knowledge, such as visiting poets, writers and artists. A recent visit from a theatre group gave pupils a taste of African drumming, storytelling and dance, and every year pupils produce an anthology of their own poems. Pupils appreciate the good range of opportunities to take part in activities at lunchtime and after school and these add to their enjoyment of school life. A wide range of sporting activities is provided for them. There are also a variety of clubs, which include gardening, girls' computer club and Holywellers (a Christian club).
Care, guidance and support
The school cares well for its pupils. There are robust procedures for ensuring the safety and well-being of pupils. Pupils from many different minority ethnic groups attend the school and they are warmly welcomed into the school community. Racist incidents are extremely rare because the school stays alert to all forms of abuse and deals with them effectively. 'The Zone' is a lunchtime club that provides a safe environment for those pupils most at risk of bullying and those who lack confidence.
Pastoral leaders know their pupils well and track their personal development but tracking academic progress is still in its infancy. Pupils do not clearly know the targets or levels they are aiming for in specific subjects or what they need to do to achieve these. There is effective liaison with feeder schools, particularly to ensure effective continuity and progression in pupil's care, achievement and standards. The school works well with outside agencies to ensure that pupils are well cared for and make good progress.
Leadership and management
The acting headteachers are in the process of introducing reforms and initiatives that are already beginning to have a positive impact on achievement. For example, there is an electronic system to track progress across the school and systematic reviews of subject performance. The senior management team has started to play a greater role in the running of the school. However, they do not have a strategic overview of improvements required at all levels. Middle managers are beginning to take more responsibility for achievement and standards and the work of their departments with the introduction of subject self-evaluation and lesson observation. However, the quality of monitoring is variable, and there is still some lack of focus on the progress pupils are making and what they need to do to improve. The school's own self-evaluation is satisfactory but overestimates pupils' achievement. The governing body is supportive and well informed and is beginning to challenge the school and hold it to account. The school finances are well managed and the school has just met the Government's standard for financial management.