The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector. The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: pupils' personal development; the progress that pupils make, particularly in writing; the quality of teaching and the impact of the recent disruption to staffing; and how well the school monitors its own performance and takes steps to address issues that arise.
Evidence was gathered through observing lessons and break-times; discussions with staff, pupils and the chair of governors; questionnaires returned by parents; the results of national assessments and the school's own documentation, particularly in tracking pupils' progress. Other aspects of the school's work were not investigated in detail, but the inspector found no evidence to suggest that the school's own assessments, as given its self-evaluation, were not justified, and these have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
This small school provides education for children from two villages. Almost all pupils are of white British heritage, and all are fluent English speakers. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is broadly average, but few pupils have high levels of need. The most common needs are moderate learning difficulties, often pupils who struggle to some extent with literacy or numeracy. There has been extensive staffing turnover in the last two years, including the sudden death of the assistant headteacher.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school where pupils thoroughly enjoy both work and play. Pupils achieve well from their overall above-average starting points. The good progress they make throughout the school means that standards in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science have been exceptionally high for several years. Inspection also showed evidence of high standards in art and in singing.
The key to pupils' good progress is good teaching. This has been maintained despite significant disruption to staffing in the last two years. The changes particularly affected the current Year 5 and 6 class, although these pupils' books show that they are nonetheless maintaining high standards in their work. Teachers manage classes well, building on high expectations of work and behaviour, and very positive relationships with pupils. Pupils in Year 6 agreed that among the best things about the school are that teachers '...make learning fun,' and '...if you are stuck, they will always help you.' Teachers have a good understanding of each pupil's progress, and plan different tasks to match their different needs. Good use is made of the skilled teaching assistants, particularly to help pupils who might otherwise struggle with literacy and numeracy to achieve well. Teachers give pupils written targets for English and mathematics, which they keep in their books. However, these are not always very 'child-friendly' and the school is currently working to improve them. Teachers mark pupils' work conscientiously, but their comments do not consistently refer to pupils' targets, or show them how they can improve their work in future.
Pupils' personal development is good. Their enjoyment of school is reflected in their high levels of attendance and their excellent behaviour. They work hard in class and are keen to succeed. They have very good relationships with each other and with adults. They say that bullying is very rare, and they have confidence that the adults in school deal firmly with any unacceptable behaviour. Older pupils take a pride in the responsibilities they take up around the school, particularly in helping younger children, and the positive contribution they make to the school community through the school council. They are keen on sport and exercise, and pupils in Year 6 are pleased about the increased opportunities they now have for sport. They have a strong sense of fairness, explaining why sporting opportunities are open to all and not just those who are very good. They understand about healthy diets, and they told the inspector that most of them eat sensibly, even though they still enjoy chocolate!
Pupils' positive attitudes are underpinned by the good care, guidance and support that the school provides. Academic progress is tracked well, based on assessment systems that are much improved since the last inspection. Pastoral care remains an important strength so that pupils feel happy and safe in school, right from their start in Reception. The school has good links with parents, and staff and governors are keen to build on these further. Parents are very supportive of the school and are generally very positive about its work. A minority, however, expressed concerns about the disruption to staffing and the impact on pupils in Years 5 and 6 in the last year. In particular, they queried the delay in appointing a permanent class teacher, and the variety of teachers that taught this class in the interim. Inspection evidence shows that the governors and headteacher did everything possible to provide good teaching to the class at this time. The pupils themselves are positive about the variety of staff who taught them, one saying 'It worked for us.' They explained very maturely to the inspector that they enjoyed the different subject strengths that different teachers brought to lessons, likening the experience to a 'practice' for secondary school.
The school provides a good curriculum that covers all the subjects well. Staff are currently working effectively to expand the links made between different subjects, to make learning more creative. There is good enrichment provided by a variety of visits and visitors, and there is a good range of well-attended extra-curricular clubs for such a small school. Recent training in physical education has increased teachers' confidence in the range of activities they can provide. French teaching adds to the experiences of Key Stage 2 pupils, making good use of specialist support from another local primary school. Similarly, input on science from a local secondary school enlivens the curriculum and generates a lot of enthusiasm from pupils.
Good leadership and management, and good teamwork from a staff led expertly by the headteacher, have helped the school to improve since the last inspection, despite recent difficulties. Good self-evaluation is based on careful tracking of pupils' achievement, with the provision of extra help to any who do not make the progress they should. In addition, staff modify the curriculum to address any more general issues. For example, a recent downturn in older pupils' writing progress is being tackled successfully, and almost all the current Year 6 are now on course to meet the challenging targets set for them. The regular monitoring of lessons by the headteacher, and clear feedback to colleagues on strengths and weaknesses, have supported the continued good teaching. The contribution of subject leaders to improving practice and progress has increased considerably since the last inspection. However, they have little opportunity to share their expertise by working alongside each other in the classroom. The school has plans to address this. The governors have a good understanding of the school's strengths and weaknesses, and hold it to account well.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Good provision ensures that children make good progress in the Reception class. Good teaching and an interesting curriculum lead to most children reaching the expected levels by the time they go into Year 1, and many exceed them. They are given things to do that enthuse and interest them, and that are matched well to their individual needs. As a result, they enjoy school and quickly feel at home in the classroom. The class has no dedicated outside area, but staff make good use of communal outside facilities to promote children's learning. Work outside is linked well to themes in the classroom. For example, mathematical work in class on giving directions was extended when children gave directions to their classmates who were riding tricycles outside. However, the lack of any covered outside area still limits provision when the weather is bad.
What the school should do to improve further
- Give subject leaders opportunities to share expertise by working alongside each other in the classroom.
- Ensure that marking more consistently evaluates pupils' work against their targets, and shows them how they can improve.
- Improve the outdoor provision for the Foundation Stage, as funds permit, by providing an area that can be used in bad weather.