The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Orleans Park is an over-subscribed, average-sized mixed comprehensive school. Pupils come from a range of economic prosperity with a slightly below average number eligible for free school meals. There are significantly more boys than girls. Most pupils are of White British origin. Over a quarter of pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds but with no major group. There is an above average and growing number of pupils for whom English is not their mother tongue, with a small number at an early stage of learning English. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is about average but the number with a statement of special educational needs is well above average. The school has specialist status for mathematics and computing.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Orleans Park is a good school. The school aims to provide 'a safe and healthy environment in which pupils can grow and thrive', and in this it is successful. It has enjoyed success in raising standards and improving the progress pupils make in subject areas such as science. Established strengths, for instance in English and mathematics, have been maintained or enhanced. Care, guidance and support are good, with effective help being given to the increasing number of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities enabling them to progress as well as their peers.
Pupils are very eager learners and greatly enjoy their time at school and in lessons. Their excellent attitudes towards their work and wider life of the school contribute significantly to the good progress they make and their outstanding personal development. Pupils are appreciative of what the school does for them. One Year 11 pupil leaving the school said that the most important thing the school has done was to 'develop him as a person'.
Teaching and learning have been given priority. An increasing proportion of teaching is good or outstanding, as a result of more stable staffing, training and support for teachers and better use of information on individual pupil's learning needs and progress. However, in some lessons teachers' planning does not always meet the needs of all pupils and help them to become more independent in their learning.
The outstanding curriculum provides pupils with a rounded education which helps them develop as articulate, confident and enthusiastic learners. One pupil, attending Japanese classes after school, wrote of her hope, 'to take Japanese for a GCSE and continue to learn more about this wonderful language'. The school has developed good partnerships with other schools, colleges and external agencies. In general, parents are supportive of the school's work. There remains a small minority, however, who have concerns about the behaviour of a few pupils in lessons and the variability of some teaching.
Leadership and management are good. Since the last inspection the school has successfully tackled areas for improvement and the school has good capacity to develop further. Strong managers are working well to bring about consistency so that all departments perform to the same high standard. The school recognises that the work of middle managers, although good, needs more consistency, especially in the use by all of performance data to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of all departments.
What the school should do to improve further
- Share best practice in teachers' planning so that work is consistently matched to pupils' needs and increases their independence and responsibility for their learning.
- Strengthen the role of middle managers in using performance data, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of their areas of responsibility.
Achievement and standards
Achievement is good and standards are above average. The overall attainment of pupils, when they start, is broadly in line with national averages with a slightly higher proportion of above average ability. Standards at the end of Year 9 are above the national average in most subjects, including English and mathematics, and in line with the national average in science. Results in 2006 showed that achievement in Years 7 to 9 was satisfactory overall. Progress in English and maths was good but the weak performance in science had a negative impact on the overall school picture. However, a wide range of evidence shows that significant improvements have been made since 2006 so that overall achievement is now good. Improvements in the quality of teaching and learning in science have contributed to the rise in standards and achievements. GCSE results A*-C are above average and improving at a rate above national averages. Achievement in Years 10 and 11 is good and recent evidence clearly shows that the school is on course to make further improvements this year.
Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities consistently make good progress throughout the school because of the good care and support they receive. The achievement of all pupils is strongly supported by good and improving teaching, and the recently introduced assessment and tracking procedures. These have helped the school to identify areas of underachievement and to develop provision in order to raise standards and achievement.
Personal development and well-being
Excellent relationships between staff and pupils, a first-class curriculum provision and the strong pastoral support they receive, contribute to pupils' outstanding personal development and well-being and their social, moral, spiritual and cultural development. Assemblies and form time, linked to the 'thought for the day', provide time for pupils to reflect on their own development, how they can support each other and contribute to the wider world. Pupils make an impressive contribution at all levels as can be seen in their artistic displays, support for children in Africa and the sports coaching they undertake with local primary schools.
Pupils feel safe and appreciate the high profile of senior staff around school. Attendance is above average and behaviour in and around the school is good. Bullying is infrequent and is dealt with promptly and effectively. The majority of pupils behave well, although there are a few instances of low level disruption in lessons when teaching is not as actively engaging as it could be. More vulnerable pupils respond well to the very good support they receive and pupils speak highly of initiatives such as 'self-esteem through sport' as having raised their confidence.
Advice on careers and further education, and a strong work-related and enterprise education programme prepare pupils well for their future lives. They have good levels of competence in numeracy, literacy and information and communication technology (ICT). However, they do not always have sufficient opportunity to develop skills as independent learners. Pupils understand the importance of healthy lifestyles, and make healthy eating choices in school and are keen to exercise.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good overall and this helps to explain the good achievement of pupils. The school's specialist status has had a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning, for example, by providing teachers with a good range of resources to add stimulus and interest to lessons.
Teachers and pupils get on together very well and this promotes good learning. There are pockets of outstanding teaching where teachers have planned to meet individual needs, pupils are engaged and the lesson pace drives them hard. In these well organised lessons, very good progress is made as pupils enjoy their challenging work. This results in motivated and interested pupils who are involved in their learning. Where teaching is outstanding the work is matched more precisely to the needs of all pupils, accelerating their learning.
Most teaching is good. Lessons are well planned, purposeful and effective, resulting in pupils working well and making good progress. As a result of training and consistent lesson monitoring, excellent practice in teaching and learning is being shared across subjects, but this is yet to have a consistent impact on all teachers. Teachers now make better use of the link between assessment and learning when they plan lessons. This is not yet consistently applied in all subjects to meet pupils' varying learning needs. Recent pupil surveys on preferred teaching and learning styles are being incorporated so that more teachers are using group work, peer assessment and a greater variety of teaching strategies. These enable pupils to actively participate in lessons, and opportunities for independent learning are improving.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is outstanding. It provides a wide range of choice and meets the needs and aspirations of pupils. The school has made sure it promotes enjoyment and achievement by the recent development of a personalised curriculum which meets the interests and aptitudes of all, especially those at risk of underachievement. Specialist school status is having a strong impact. ICT, for example, is much improved since the last inspection and plays a significant part in enriching the curriculum and offering additional challenges for higher attaining pupils.
The school has developed a strong partnership with local schools and colleges to provide a curriculum that is well planned and effectively reflects the needs of the pupils, the school's context and its specialist status. In Key Stage 4 there is a wide choice of science and technology courses and vocational options that are having a positive impact on pupils' achievement. The quantity, quality and popularity of extra-curricular opportunities such as sports, performing arts, as well as visits, residential trips, and revision and booster classes make an outstanding contribution to pupils' personal and academic development.
Care, guidance and support
The school provides good care, guidance and support which enable pupils to make good progress. Staff know their pupils well and the quality of their concern for their personal and academic welfare provides a secure foundation for their development. The school has good procedures for ensuring the health and safety of pupils, and undertakes risk assessments when necessary. Child protection procedures are fully in place and all staff are aware of what is expected of them.
Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities make good progress as a result of organised and focused provision. The Pupil Support Zone provides effective support for vulnerable pupils, raising their self-esteem and helping them to achieve better. Older pupils provide very good support for younger pupils through the 'peer listening' and 'buddy' systems, so that they know who to talk to if they have problems.
The school has now developed good systems to provide academic support and guidance. Pupils have a good idea of their targets, know how well they are progressing and what they need to do to improve. The school is taking steps to bring about more consistent use of this support and ensure that recent improvements in pupils' achievement can continue at pace.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are good. The headteacher provides outstanding leadership, supported by an effective leadership team and strong governors. There is strength in depth in the school's leadership and management which now include a growing number of very good middle managers. Evidence of their impact can be seen in the improving teaching and learning, and effective use of data to ensure that pupils make better progress in all subjects.
Staff at all levels share a common purpose and commitment. They are provided with good training and professional opportunities, perhaps best captured by one who spoke of a staff culture where there is, 'room to grow'. Staffing is now more stable and this has helped secure some of the recent improvements in the school.
What is striking about governors and managers at all levels is an honesty and lack of complacency about areas for development. This is coupled with a determination to bring about change in a measured and planned way. For example, managers have invested time, energy and support where teaching has been inconsistent and this extensive, well focused professional development for teachers has underpinned the progress made in strengthening the quality of teaching and learning. However, evaluation of the effectiveness of the work of all departments is not yet sharp enough, and targets and criteria for success are not identified in a clear and measurable way. Middle managers are now focussing on this, confident that the process of departmental evaluation which has begun will provide for more consistent progress throughout the school.