The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector.
Description of the school
Oakington Manor is a very large primary school. Almost all its pupils are from a wide range of minority ethnic groups. About two thirds are from homes in which English is a second language, and about half of these are in the early stages of learning English. These proportions are much higher than the national norms. A third of pupils are eligible for free school meals, indicating the high levels of deprivation found locally. A third of the pupils have learning difficulties and disabilities. Again, this proportion is much higher than the national average. To some extent this is because the school houses a local authority Language and Communication Centre for pupils with statements of special educational need. All of these pupils have speech or communication difficulties. At the same time as the inspection of the school, there was also a separate inspection of the day care provision on-site in the Acorn Nursery.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Oakington Manor Primary is an outstanding school. It has many exceptional features, and is highly effective in ensuring that its pupils make excellent progress in developing their basic skills and becoming confident and thoughtful learners.
The driving force behind the school's effectiveness is the headteacher. Under her inspirational and dynamic leadership the school enjoys a deservedly high profile within the local community. It is also recognised for its participation in national and international projects. One of its many significant strengths is its use of information and communication technology (ICT) to develop links with schools abroad. The highly professional staff team and the committed and knowledgeable governors ensure that there is no room for complacency, and constantly look for ways to improve even more. Leadership and management at all levels are excellent.
The parents hold their school in extremely high regard. A very high proportion of the parents returned the inspection questionnaires, and these were positive in all areas surveyed. Many parents wrote positive comments, and one of these sums up the essence of the school when noting, 'I have nothing but respect and praise for the staff. The headteacher does an absolutely marvellous job. Her dedication, passion and long hours of work are reflected in the excellent education the school provides.'
Oakington is a vibrant place in which pupils achieve exceptionally well. This occurs because teaching, the curriculum, and the care and guidance provided for pupils are all excellent. A further important factor is the excellent climate for learning evident in all classes. This stems from the outstanding personal development and well-being of the pupils.
Children are given an excellent start to their education in the Foundation Stage classes. They benefit enormously from the high quality learning environment provided through the new buildings and the way in which staff organise opportunities for learning to take place. By the time children transfer to Key Stage 1, their attainment falls short of what is expected nationally at this age. Nonetheless, this represents excellent progress from children's very low starting points when they join the Nursery. In Key Stages 1 and 2, pupils continue to make excellent progress and, by the time they leave at the end of Year 6, most attain the nationally expected levels in English, mathematics and science. This represents a significant achievement, given the high proportions of pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities and pupils at the early stages of learning English. However, the school is not content with this situation and constantly strives to increase the proportion of pupils who are working at a level above that expected for their age. Many of its initiatives focus on this issue.
Oakington is a very inclusive school in which pupils' individual talents are identified, developed and celebrated. A particular success is the integration of pupils from the Language and Communication Centre, who spend a significant proportion of their time in the mainstream classes.
The school has made excellent progress since its last inspection. The key features contributing to this progress are the outstanding way in which staff are supported in improving their expertise and the management's relentless focus on providing the very best education at all times. This leaves the school exceptionally well placed to develop even further.
What the school should do to improve further
- Refine the systems currently in place so that an even greater focus is placed on pupils most likely to attain above-average levels in English, mathematics and science.
Achievement and standards
Pupils make excellent progress throughout the school, regardless of gender, ethnicity or levels of attainment.
At the end of the Reception year, standards are below the national average in all areas of learning except physical development, where they are above average. Children make excellent progress because they are taught exceptionally well, and benefit from the high quality curriculum provided for them.
Above average proportions of pupils attain the expected levels in the national assessments at the end of Key Stage 1 and the tests at the end of Key Stage 2. This is outstanding achievement, given the very low starting points of pupils when they join the school and the fact that a third have learning difficulties and disabilities. The proportion of pupils with statements of special educational need is three times the national average, yet all of these pupils are entered for the national tests. This demonstrates the excellent progress made by these pupils and the school's high expectations for all. The school is not content with its achievements and wants standards to be even higher. Currently standards are broadly average at KS2 and significantly below average at KS1 because not enough pupils exceed the expected levels The school's initiatives to drive up standards are focused strongly on targeting the pupils who are most likely to move up to a higher level, thereby improving its overall performance.
Last year the school experienced a dip in the achievement of its Year 6 pupils which was caused by a combination of issues relating to staffing in this year group. These have now been resolved, and the school is back on course to regain its place among the top five per cent of schools nationally in terms of the progress made by pupils between Key Stages 1 and 2.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is excellent. Pupils behave impeccably in lessons. At play, behaviour is generally good. Pupils say that bullying is not a problem. When it does occur, they feel that teachers deal with it well. Pupils have positive views about their school, particularly regarding the good quality of relationships evident throughout. One Year 4 pupil commented, 'I really like being here because all the people are so friendly!' Despite the fact that some families take extended breaks during term-time, attendance is consistently above the national average, and illustrate pupils' exceptionally positive attitudes towards their school.
Pupils have a good understanding of how to be safe and a good knowledge about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. They always eat healthily when taking school meals. Pupils are well prepared for the next phase of their education and for their future economic well-being. Their skills in teamwork and their diligent approach to tasks are good, and their skills in ICT are well developed.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Most teachers are extremely skilled, and many are recognised by the local authority as exemplars of outstanding practice.
Teaching in the Foundation Stage focuses strongly on developing children's social skills and their ability to communicate in English. Teachers are good role models for the children and, through their enthusiasm, ensure that the pace of learning never flags.
Throughout the school there is a well established culture of learning, and teachers have high expectations of what their pupils can achieve. Teachers are very good at making learning interesting and enjoyable by using a wide range of strategies. They are also good at developing pupils' understanding by constantly challenging them to give reasons for their answers. Pupils from the Language and Communication Centre are taught alongside other pupils for part of each day. In the Year 6 literacy sessions observed during the course of the inspection it was not possible to differentiate between these pupils and their classmates because the tasks set provided suitably challenging work for all groups.
Teachers' assessments of their pupils are accurate, and teachers use them well to help plan the next stages of pupils' learning. Skilled teaching assistants work well in partnership with teachers and give good quality help to pupils, particularly those with learning difficulties.
Curriculum and other activities
A great deal of thought has been put into planning a curriculum that provides excellent opportunities for pupils to develop skills across a wide range of subjects. There are many significant strengths within the curriculum, including provision for ICT, physical education and school sports, music, and art. These are recognised through a number of awards, including Artsmark Gold, Sportsmark Gold and the ICT Quality Mark. Some of the ICT provision is of the highest quality including, for example, pupils' use of video-conferencing to communicate with schools in China, Romania and Denmark. The school also makes good use of the specialist facilities of a local science college. Among the many excellent facilities available to pupils is the spacious sports hall. The new accommodation for children in the Foundation Stage classes is outstanding and the space is well used to provide a wide range of exciting activities for the children.
There is a strong commitment to promoting pupils' awareness and appreciation of the wide range of pupils' cultural backgrounds. For example, the school's collaboration with a local junior school in Project WW recorded the cultural traditions of the West Indian and Irish communities. During the week of the inspection, the school was celebrating Traveller and Gypsy culture. The international ethos embedded throughout the school is recognised through the International School Award gained in November 2006.
Care, guidance and support
The school provides excellent pastoral care for its pupils. For example, the P2B project provides therapeutic support for learners with emotional difficulties and advice and support for parents. The school's Pyramid Club offers support to younger pupils who find it hard to make positive relationships with others. Numerous outside agencies are involved in supporting pupils particularly those with English as an additional language and those with learning difficulties and disabilities. This enables them to make excellent progress. The procedures to ensure pupils' safety and well-being are rigorous. The school keeps thorough records of the checks made on the background of all adults who have contact with the pupils. Pupils really appreciate the range of ways in which they are able to share their views or worries with staff. The Place2B box, for example, enables them to post notes about their concerns, secure in the knowledge that staff will respond.
The quality of academic guidance given to pupils is good. This is based on secure assessment. Pupils' progress is carefully monitored. They are given clear targets to achieve, and know precisely what they need to do next to improve their work.
Leadership and management
The impact of leadership is seen in the excellent progress made by the pupils. The senior managers ensure that the effectiveness of the school is constantly reviewed and action taken whenever needed. The headteacher's exceptional skills as a leader are not only valued within the school community but are also recognised in a wider context through, for example, her recruitment as a London Challenge Consultant Leader. Through her vision and drive, the facilities available to the pupils have been improved over a number of years and many are first rate. Both senior and middle managers provide excellent support to the headteacher and outstanding leadership of their areas of responsibility. The governors are exceptionally well informed and successfully fulfil their role as critical friends. Throughout the school, there is a strong sense of teamwork, and an exceptionally good commitment to continuous improvement.
The leadership of the school ensures that all pupils, regardless of ability, are fully included and equally valued. For example, pupils from the Language and Communication Centre are able to play a full part in activities because of the extra help they are given. Those with particular talents have these recognised and developed.