The inspection was carried out by four Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This is a larger than average middle school, where the great majority of pupils are from White British backgrounds. A very small number of pupils from other ethnic backgrounds are at the early stages of learning English. The proportion of pupils who are eligible for free school meals is broadly average. The percentage of pupils identified by the school as having learning difficulties and/or disabilities is well above that found nationally. When the school was inspected in February 2007, it was given a Notice to Improve. The headteacher, who had very recently joined the school, was absent. He left the school in August 2007. The acting headteacher, in post since Easter 2007, was appointed to the substantive post in April 2008.
Overall effectiveness of the school
The school has made satisfactory progress since the previous inspection and its overall effectiveness is satisfactory. In accordance with Section 13 (5) of the Education Act 2005, HMCI is of the opinion that the school no longer requires a Notice to Improve.
Most of the weaknesses identified in the previous report have been addressed successfully. The most important factor in putting the school back on track has been the sustained improvement in leadership and management, particularly by the headteacher and senior team. Self-evaluation is secure and planning is carefully prioritised. Pupils' progress towards their challenging targets in English, mathematics and science is carefully monitored, specific weaknesses are addressed and achievement is improving, especially in Years 5 and 6 mathematics and science. The school evaluates the impact of changes it makes and adjusts them when necessary, for example changes have been made to ability groupings in order to meet pupils' needs more effectively. The school is now soundly placed to continue to improve.
There have been improvements in other key areas. Although teaching remains satisfactory overall, a larger proportion of lessons is now good. Assessment of pupils' progress is accurate and generally used to plan lessons that are pitched at the right level. Behaviour management has improved because of the introduction of a well thought out behaviour policy. Most staff use this effectively to ensure lessons are calm and orderly. As a result, despite the high level of parental concern, behaviour is satisfactory and the number of low level disruptions to learning is falling.
The implementation of these changes is a little uneven across the school. Subject leaders work hard and with a great deal of enthusiasm and commitment. However, monitoring by subject leaders does not yet ensure that school policies, such as marking, operate consistently. The school is working hard to develop subject leaders' expertise in this area.
Pupils' achievement is satisfactory and is improving. Standards on entry to the school are below average, especially in mathematics, and pupils reach broadly average standards by the time they leave. Occasionally, the most able pupils do not make as much progress as they should because lessons do not provide them with a high enough level of challenge, even when working in ability groupings. Some pupils still have ground to make up.
Care, support and guidance are satisfactory and ensure pupils have sound attitudes to learning and that most enjoy school. Secure arrangements are in place to ensure pupils stay safe. Guidance on academic work is satisfactory and is improving. Pupils are set challenging long term targets, but do not always know much progress they are making towards meeting them. Marking and feedback in class do not always provide clear guidance on the small steps pupils need to take to reach their targets. Pastoral care is good and the care of vulnerable pupils is a strength of the school, enabling pupils with complex needs to attend school regularly and to make sound academic progress. Pupils' personal development has some good features. Pupils have a good awareness of how to stay healthy, which is reflected in their keenness to take part in the wide range of extra sporting activities the school offers. They make a good contribution to the school and wider community, for example parents and relatives enjoyed watching pupils' confident performances in the 'Ipsley Factor' during the inspection period. Pupils' satisfactory social and academic skills are a sound preparation for the next stage of their education.
What the school should do to improve further
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
Standards are broadly average and pupils make satisfactory progress from their below average standards on entry to the school. Progress is faster in Key Stage 3 than in Key Stage 2. Pupils are making better progress than in recent years, especially in mathematics and science in Years 5 and 6. This is because the school clearly identifies specific weaknesses in pupils' work and introduces strategies to address them. Pupils are getting closer to reaching their challenging targets, but there is still some catching up to do. Occasionally, the most able pupils do not make as much progress as they should. In mathematics, a sharp focus on problem solving and using and applying mathematics is beginning to improve achievement. The large number of pupils who require extra support for literacy, numeracy and behavioural difficulties make satisfactory academic progress. Pupils at the early stages of learning English also make sound progress.
Personal development and well-being
Most pupils behave well and behaviour is improving. There is still a small number of pupils in each year group who occasionally interrupt learning for others, but this is reducing. The fairly large group of vulnerable pupils who have complex social and emotional needs make very good steps in sustaining regular attendance and settling into school. Attendance is above average and pupils' attitudes to learning are satisfactory. Most pupils enjoy school, especially in those lessons where activities are interesting. Incidents of bullying are declining to the extent that pupils report it is not a major problem and that staff deal effectively with any incidents that arise. Pupils' views contrast with those of parents, a significant number of whom still consider bullying to be a concern. Pupils' social, moral, spiritual and cultural development is satisfactory. Pupils have a good awareness of the Christian religion. They make a good contribution to the school and wider community, for example through a recently introduced prefect system. They have a good understanding of healthy lifestyles and know how to keep themselves safe, for instance in design and technology lessons. Their progress in acquiring literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology skills makes a satisfactory contribution to their future economic well-being.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching is improving, as reflected in the growing minority of good lessons and improved pupil achievement. Assessment of pupils' progress is thorough and accurate and is generally used to plan lessons which match pupils' learning needs. However, occasionally, activities are planned which do not provide a sufficient level of challenge, especially for the most able pupils. In most lessons, pupils have good relationships with their teachers, which motivate them to learn. Behaviour management is improving because most staff operate the recently introduced behaviour policy consistently. However, when lessons fail to engage pupils' interest, or when pupils are allowed to ignore classroom conventions, especially in lower sets, there are still occasional low level disruptions to learning. In most lessons, learning objectives are clear and lessons contain activities to enthuse pupils. Marking too has improved and is satisfactory overall. However, it does not always provide enough information on how well pupils are doing or guidance on how to improve.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum effectively promotes pupils' sound academic and personal achievements. The school has taken effective action to adapt and strengthen provision where it has identified the need to improve progress, such as in calculations and problem solving in mathematics. Whilst pupil groupings now more closely match pupils' learning needs, occasionally the curriculum for more able pupils does not provide them with a sufficient level of challenge, even when pupils are taught in ability groups. Following review, the school is planning further changes to pupil groupings to match pupils' academic and social needs more closely. Pupils' personal needs are met effectively, for example those in danger of falling behind benefit from a range of well coordinated intervention strategies that help them make steady progress. There is good enrichment, especially in the arts and sports, which enhances pupils' self esteem and broadens their experience.
Care, guidance and support
Systems to ensure pupils' health and safety are robust and operate effectively. Pastoral care is good. Although not yet fully embedded, the recently introduced behaviour system has resulted in falling exclusion rates, less bullying, improved behaviour and has increased some pupils' feelings of well-being. The work of the school in supporting vulnerable pupils is good and is supported by very effective working relationships with other agencies. Attendance rates have been sustained at above average levels because of close cooperation between staff, external agencies and parents. Provision for pupils who need extra support in literacy and numeracy is satisfactory and these pupils make sound progress. Academic guidance is satisfactory and improving. Pupils are now aware of their targets, especially in English, and mathematics. They do not always know how close they are to reaching them. Feedback in class and through marking does not always make pupils sufficiently aware of the small steps they need to take to reach them.
Leadership and management
The headteacher, supported well by the senior team, provides very clear direction in addressing the concerns raised during the previous Ofsted inspection. Planning is sound and is based on an accurate analysis of the work of the school. Pupils' progress towards their targets is carefully monitored and effective action is taken to help pupils catch up when they fall behind. The impact of these actions is regularly reviewed, for example changes to setting arrangements in Year 6 are to be fine tuned in the next academic year. Subject leadership is satisfactory. Subject leaders monitor the quality of provision carefully, but their levels of expertise are somewhat mixed. As a result, there is still some inconsistency in the way in which school policies are implemented, for example in marking. The school and local authority are providing good support to develop these skills further. Governors provide sound support and challenge for the school. Over the last year, pupils have made better progress, especially in mathematics and science, and their behaviour has improved. The quality of teaching, the curriculum, assessment and academic guidance has improved, although there is further to go. The school now has satisfactory capacity to improve further.