The inspection was carried out by four Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This average sized school serves a culturally diverse community where many families experience considerable social and economic disadvantage. The school has many more boys than girls. Attainment on entry varies. It is never higher than below average, and is affected by high pupil mobility. Many pupils arrive from abroad with limited English, meaning that a very high proportion are from families where English is not the first language. Over 50 are at an early stage of learning English. A high proportion of the pupils are identified with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. There are twelve looked-after children on roll. The school has just gained specialist status for humanities and business studies. The school is going through a major refurbishment of its accommodation through the 'Building Schools for the Future' programme.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Kelmscott is a good school. It is improving and has some outstanding features, particularly aspects of the curriculum and the high quality of the care, support and guidance provided. Pupils and parents combine with staff to give a strong sense of the school as a community. The school's cultural diversity is a significant strength, which is much valued by the pupils. They are clear that 'it helps us to understand other people's perspectives.' It is a happy, harmonious and tight knit school community. The current rebuilding programme has not been easy for staff and pupils, although the visitor hardly notices the disruption caused because everyone is coping so well.
Given the pupils' starting points, their achievement is good. Standards have steadily improved and GCSE results have risen to close to the national average. Mathematics has been an area of concern because a long period of disruption caused by staffing instability led to low standards and poor progress. The tide is turning here as the new head of department is giving a clear direction, leading to improvements in teaching, pupils' attitudes and their achievement. This has yet to feed through to sustained improvement across the school, although GCSE results improved in 2007.
There are several reasons for the pupils' good progress. Improvements to the curriculum since the last inspection have led to rising standards at Key Stage 4. The effectiveness of weaker subjects has also improved, as has pupils' achievement in them. Study programmes have become more personal to each individual. The courses they follow and the lessons taught are pitched at their needs and interests. The pupils benefit from good teaching by teachers, who plan lessons carefully to meet pupils' individual needs. Pupils develop good skills for their future because of the strong vocational element in Years 10 and 11, well targeted careers advice and productive partnerships with local employers and further and higher education colleges. This is a significant factor in the high take up rates post-16.
Pupils feel safe and secure in school, because of the attention paid not just to their care and welfare but also to their academic and personal guidance. They know where to find help if they have a concern, and regard staff as approachable and supportive. They are confident that any incidents that occur are dealt with promptly and appropriately. Pupils have a good understanding of how to stay healthy and safe. They speak highly about the very enjoyable and wide-ranging physical activities available before and after school. The strengths within the school community are not exploited and developed sufficiently within the local community, a matter the school is seeking to extend through its specialist school plan.
Sustained improvements for several years now have been possible because staff morale is high and there is a constant drive to raise achievement. Leadership and management are good. The new headteacher is making her mark and has already begun refining systems by which the school evaluates its effectiveness. The plans for the school's development as a specialist college build on the current programmes to develop teaching and learning styles and the involvement of pupils in reviewing their own learning. The school is thriving and successful. It has good capacity to become even better.
What the school should do to improve further
- Build on recent progress in mathematics to bring about sustained improvements in pupils' achievement.
Achievement and standards
Pupils make good progress during their time at the school. The high turnover of pupils has a detrimental effect on standards, although the trend in Year 9 test results is upwards. Pupils make good progress in English at Key Stage 3, and satisfactory progress in mathematics and science. Year 9 test results improved in English in 2007 and were below average, but remained very low in mathematics. There has been a considerable improvement in the progress made by pupils at Key Stage 4, so that GCSE results have continued their steady upward climb. Pupils make at least good progress in Years 10 and 11. Provisional GCSE results improved in 2007, having been average the year before. Two-thirds of pupils gained five or more A*-C grades, but this proportion was considerably smaller when English and mathematics were included. This was because in spite of improvements in mathematics, results were still below average. There are no underachieving groups, although some do better than others. The best progress across the school is made by pupils who start with low standards, pupils with learning difficulties and those at an early stage of learning English. This is because of the careful attention given to assessing their needs, tracking their progress and providing them with focused support.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils enjoy coming to school. Pupils are highly motivated, often returning after school to go over work they have not understood in lessons. They are polite and courteous, working cooperatively with each other. New arrivals to the school say they are made very welcome. Attendance has improved; it is now satisfactory. Although a small number of parents expressed some concerns about behaviour, the inspection team found behaviour to be good with very positive relationships between pupils. The level of fixed period exclusions is quite high but used to make pupils clear about the school's expectations. To reduce exclusions, plans are being developed to introduce a support unit for pupils identified as moving towards the likely use of this sanction. The pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. They learn to respect the cultures and traditions of others and mix well with each other. Pupils contribute well to the school's caring and supportive community through the prefect and peer mentoring programme. They readily support each other in lessons or when helping newcomers to the school. Pupils can contribute to making decisions in the school, but they are not always sure if their views have been considered.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The most effective teachers instil an enjoyment for learning through the enthusiasm for their subjects. Many lessons are taught well and some have outstanding features, although this is not a consistent picture across the school. Learning and progress are good in most subjects because lessons are challenging yet teachers temper this with sensitive support for those needing additional help. This helps to develop the pupils' confidence and self-esteem. Pupils are immersed in lessons because teachers make learning interesting through creative use of interactive whiteboards and by varying the activities to make good use of the time available. While many skilled teachers involve all pupils through their carefully directed questioning, there are times when individuals are not encouraged to participate fully, so that they become passive learners. Pupils are clear about the purpose of a lesson, where it fits in to what they have done before and what they will do next, and how to judge their own success in meeting clear objectives. Through good planning and preparation, most teachers adapt materials and methods to meet specific needs, but at times the lack of finely tuned activities and limited additional support slow learning for some pupils.
Curriculum and other activities
Much thought has been put into making the curriculum more relevant to the pupils' backgrounds, interests and aspirations. The innovative Key Stage 4 curriculum is making a considerable difference to their achievement and engagement in learning. The carefully planned personal and social education programme is supported by citizenship and religious studies, both of which are taken by all pupils at GCSE. This makes a very significant contribution to pupils' personal development. All Key Stage 4 pupils take a vocational course in keeping with the school's specialist status. These include the development and application of their information and communication technology skills. The vocational courses are suited to pupils of all levels and develop a wide range of skills for working life including independent learning and communication skills. Effective work experience also encourages pupils to think about prospective opportunities in the future. Programmes are carefully designed to meet the specific learning or language needs of individual pupils. Provision for gifted and talented pupils in areas such as art has extended the experiences of pupils through the opportunity to work with a professional artist. The wide and varied opportunities for enrichment activities, including clubs for sports and cultural activities and revision sessions, are well attended and much appreciated by pupils.
Care, guidance and support
Pupils are safe and secure in school. Robust and rigorously implemented procedures, including improved lunchtime supervision, ensure the health, safety and welfare of the pupils. Systems to safeguard children meet requirements. Pupils understand their personal targets and the steps needed to achieve them. This helps them to take increasing responsibility for their learning. The school has developed highly effective systems for tracking an individual's progress throughout the school. This, along with the central role played by the pastoral team in using the information, makes a very considerable contribution to the academic and personal development of the pupils. Heads of year closely monitor and guide pupils and help subject teachers to identify the support and intervention needed to improve individual achievement. Pupils who have additional needs are identified early and strategies are put in place through the highly effective 'pupil forum'. This is instrumental in the good progress pupils make, particularly those who need specifically tailored support. Pupils who are at an early stage of learning English are very well supported and tracked throughout the school. Through sharply focused support, they participate fully in lessons, learn English quickly and make good progress in examination courses.
Leadership and management
Robust management systems, the support of governors and strong teamwork have enabled the school to sustain its improvement during recent changes of leadership. Through systematic monitoring, all leaders are involved in checking on the work of the school and evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. One result is a shared understanding of what it does well and where it could do better. There is a very strong commitment to enabling all pupils to achieve of their best, whatever their background. Equality of opportunity is very effectively promoted and discrimination is successfully tackled, through the focus in the curriculum on meeting the needs of individual pupils. Pupils are set very challenging targets and the professional development of teachers is focused sharply on how these can be achieved.
The new headteacher has successfully shared her vision for the school's development with all staff. Good practice is shared well within the school and its specialist school plan aims to strengthen this. Under this plan, the school and its pupils will take a greater role in the community including supporting local primary schools. Subject leaders take responsibility for checking the work of their departments, although with varying levels of expertise. The new headteacher has introduced a changed approach to self-evaluation to improve this process. This includes involving pupils more in the review of the school's work. Governors are well informed and fulfil their responsibilities well. They have given the school strong support during a particularly challenging period of re-building.