The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This school is larger than average. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is very high. Most of these pupils have moderate learning difficulties, emotional difficulties or need help with speech and language. Many pupils join the school partway through their primary education. The school provides extended services, including breakfast and after-school clubs, supported by a children's centre which also offers help to families. The school is part of the Thanet Excellence Cluster. The headteacher joined the school in April 2007.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Newlands Primary School provides a satisfactory education for its pupils. Standards are very low, especially in writing, and pupils have not in the past always done as well as they should. This is very much an improving school, however. Pupils are now achieving satisfactorily and they are beginning to catch up on previously lost ground. The headteacher has built a strong and effective leadership team that knows the school well, has accurately diagnosed what is needed to move it forward and which has already brought the school a long way in quite a short time. This good leadership and management show the school's good capacity for continued improvement.
One of the key transformations in this school has been to raise expectations. Pupils are making better progress now because teachers expect more of them and because the pupils, in turn, have a growing confidence in what they can achieve. Children are now getting off to a faster start in the Reception Year. As local authority monitoring confirms, children were previously making insufficient progress in this Foundation Stage of their education so that they were not well enough prepared for the rest of their schooling. Teaching and learning are satisfactory. An increasing proportion of teaching is good – spurred by the feedback from school leaders' perceptive monitoring. Most lessons move at a good pace. Teachers involve the pupils in varied and often physical activities that help to maintain their interest, although sometimes pupils are unsure of what they should be doing when they are asked to work independently or in small groups. Work is not always matched closely enough to pupils' different capabilities. Teaching assistants are used well. Their support for the many pupils who need extra help with their learning enables them to make similar progress to the others in the class. Although there are examples of good marking in the school, not all marking gives pupils clear enough pointers on what they need to do to improve their work.
Newlands Primary School caters especially well for pupils' welfare and their emotional development. A number of parents comment on how the school and children's centre have helped them through family problems. Even those parents who have not had to draw on support recognise the strength of this provision. As one explained, 'I have no concerns whatsoever about the care my son receives, but if I did, I believe my concerns would be taken seriously and acted upon.' The good care, guidance and support provided to pupils contribute to their good personal development. Parents highlight this as an achievement of the school. Many describe their children as 'very happy at this school'. One spoke of how their daughter has 'grown from a very, very shy girl to someone with confidence to answer questions in class and stand up in front of the whole school to read out a story in assembly'.
Pupils enjoy the interesting range of activities, including some that are tailored to broaden pupils' experiences and celebrate their talents, for example in swimming, golf and even horse-riding. This is certainly a school that goes the extra furlong. The curriculum is satisfactory rather than better, however, because there is an overreliance in some subjects on worksheets or on copying notes. These limit pupils' opportunities to develop and use their writing skills.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children enter Reception with skills and abilities well below those expected for their age. Their progress is satisfactory and is improving. Children's progress is best in their social development and in their attitudes to learning. As one parent explained, 'My son is a changed little boy since being at Newlands. He is confident in himself and in different situations. He amazes me each day with the knowledge he has already learned and all credit must go to the teachers' hard work and perseverance.' The quality of provision has improved significantly this year, so that it provides a stimulating environment both indoors and out. Standards, however, remain below average by the start of Year 1. The school knows this and is working hard to further improve children's skills across each of the areas of learning. Staff work together effectively as a team and support each other as well the children. They also work well with parents, which helps the children settle quickly into school routines. Children behave well and enjoy the many different activities provided for them, but they do not always learn independently. Staff sometimes miss opportunities to take observations of the choices children make, or to involve the children themselves in recording the activities they choose.
What the school should do to improve further
- Give pupils more opportunities to practise and develop their writing in subjects other than English.
- Ensure that all marking shows pupils what they need to do to improve their work.
- Better match work to pupils' different abilities and ensure that they all understand what it is they should be doing.
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 very low. This is due to some past underachievement but pupils are now achieving satisfactorily and they are increasingly catching up where they have previously fallen behind. Standards are slowly beginning to rise. The greatest improvement has been in mathematics, where the careful tracking of pupils' progress has keenly focused teachers' attention on identifying and tackling underachievement. Improvement has been slowest in writing because opportunities are missed for pupils to practise and develop their writing skills in subjects other than English. Pupils who need extra help with their learning make similar progress to others because they benefit from good support. That is also true for the many pupils who join the school partway through their primary education. The satisfactory progress that pupils make in developing their literacy and numeracy skills gives them a sound foundation to transfer successfully to secondary education and eventually to the world of work.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils are happy at school because 'it's a very friendly school' and 'everybody smiles'. Good relationships abound and, consequently, pupils behave well and enjoy taking part in all the activities the school offers. Attendance, however, remains below average despite the school's good efforts to encourage and reward regular attenders. Pupils feel safe from bullying and say there is always an adult to turn to if they have any worries. Many pupils take part in the wide range of sporting activities and appreciate the benefits of regular exercise and healthy food. The school's work in this area has been recognised by gaining a Healthy Schools award. Pupils particularly appreciate the rewards given to them for their achievements both in and out of school and are proud of the school's successes in local competitions on show in the cabinet 'packed full of trophies'. Although in its infancy, the school council has been influential in bringing about improvements to the school environment, including refurbishing the toilets and fundraising for the school's much prized wildlife area. Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good, as demonstrated in their care for others and the very moving poems Year 5 pupils have written about poverty and homelessness.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teachers get on well with their pupils and they manage behaviour well. Teachers provide pupils with varied activities that stimulate their interest and engagement. As a result, pupils work industriously and with concentration. In some lessons, however, the pace of learning slows. Sometimes this is because lesson introductions go on for too long and the pupils' attention wanes. Sometimes pupils do not know what it is they are expected to do when asked to work independently or in small groups. Often work is matched with care to pupils' different abilities, but this is not always the case, especially in subjects other than English and mathematics. More able pupils, in particular, are not challenged enough when the whole class are all tackling essentially the same work. Teaching assistants provide good support for pupils who need extra help in learning or managing their behaviour.
Curriculum and other activities
Pupils enjoy coming to Newlands because of all the interesting things they get to do. They learn French from Reception onwards and, throughout the school, they are given opportunities to learn to play musical instruments. The teaching of science is enhanced through links with a local pharmaceutical company and through opportunities for some pupils to take part in flying lessons at the nearby airfield. Good use is made of visitors, excursions, residential trips and extra-curricular activities, including sports. These expand pupils' horizons and enrich their experiences. Provision for learning and in using information and communication technology has improved since the last inspection because of the increase in resources and the asset of specialist teaching. The school's wildlife area also provides a rich learning resource.
The curriculum is currently being reviewed to increase the opportunities to learn through themes and topics that link subjects together. At present, however, opportunities are too often missed for pupils to express themselves in their own words through writing in subjects other than English.
Care, guidance and support
Staff know their pupils well and there are good procedures for protecting and safeguarding them. The school rightly prides itself in the strong support and encouragement that staff give to every child and to their families. It is this that enables pupils to grow in confidence and self-esteem. Pupils feel secure, knowing who to turn to if they need help. Risk assessments and health and safety procedures are in place. There are rigorous systems for watching over and improving pupils' attendance, and these are having a positive impact. Those new to school settle well because they are given good support and because 'people are really friendly and welcome you'. The school works well with other agencies to obtain the right support for individuals, particularly those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Pupils know and refer to their learning targets in English and mathematics but the quality of marking varies. Not all marking provides pupils with clear enough guidance on what they need to do to improve their work.
Leadership and management
The headteacher provides very strong direction for the school's improvement and has united the staff team in the drive to raise standards. Their evaluation of the school's strengths and weaknesses is accurate and precise. Newlands Primary School strives to ensure that every child is fully included, and the impact of this is evident, for example, in the way in which pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties are helped to settle and learn. Subject coordinators work together as a close team. They are increasingly developing their subject expertise and provide good support for colleagues. However, the school has not fully achieved its goals: some aspects, such as the quality of teaching and the progress that pupils make, are improving but school leaders readily acknowledge that there is still further to go. Governors are well informed about the work of the school. They are supportive and work closely with the headteacher, setting challenging academic targets for her and the staff.