The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector.
The Inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues:
- why do boys not achieve quite as well as girls?
- why do those pupils learning English as an additional language and those pupils with learning difficulties achieve particularly well?
- which aspects of the school are outstanding and why?
Evidence was gathered from the analysis of school documentation, observation of lessons, conversations with learners and discussions with teachers and senior staff. Other aspects of the school's work were not inspected in detail, but the inspector found no evidence to suggest that the school's own assessments, as given in its self-evaluation, were not justified, and these have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
The school serves an area of relative advantage. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is low. Sixty two percent of pupils come from minority ethnic backgrounds. This figure has risen sharply over the last three years. Twenty seven percent of pupils are learning English as an additional language. The percentage identified with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is lower than average, as is the proportion with a statement of special educational. The percentage of pupils joining or leaving the school at other than the usual times was higher in 2007 than in previous years. The school has 'Healthy School Status', silver 'Artsmark', 'Activemark', 'Basic Skills Mark' and is an 'Investor in People'.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Our Lady of Peace is an outstanding school. Parents have nothing but praise for the school's work. One parent wrote, 'We very strongly feel that the school provides a wonderful environment to develop both academically and personally and have been delighted with our children's development'. These words echo the sentiments of the vast majority.
What is the key to the school's success? The headteacher and her deputy are capable and highly committed individuals who strive to ensure that the whole community is involved in all aspects of school life. Parents, children and staff all feel valued and included. No child is left behind in this school because as the headteacher states, 'Every Child Matters is at the centre of all we do'. When leaders identify an area for improvement, action taken is swift and effective. For example, an evident dip in results in 2006 prompted the school to focus on improving levels of attainment in writing. This had a real impact as writing results in 2007 returned to being significantly above average. Robust cycles of monitoring and evaluation are in place. This ensures that pupils continue to achieve as well as possible and that teachers deliver high quality lessons. Governors know their school well and hold it to account for its performance. They involve themselves well in the school's effective self-evaluation processes and are not afraid to ask challenging questions when the need arises. Parents are confident if they have any questions or issues that they are dealt with quickly and effectively because, 'Everyone is approachable and friendly'. Since the time of the previous inspection the school has improved its use of assessment information and ensures that provision has a good impact on pupils' achievement. In light of this and the school's track record, there is an excellent capacity for further improvement.
Standards are significantly above average and considering pupils' below average starting points, achievement is excellent. This is because pupils thrive in an atmosphere of high expectation and challenge. Leaders are particularly proud of the progress made by those pupils for whom English is an additional language and by those with learning difficulties. They do so very well because attention and support is provided early to ensure that they catch up quickly. Teachers are diligent and their planning is meticulous. This ensures that the work they plan is well-matched to pupils' needs. Electronic whiteboards are used confidently to make lessons interesting and exciting. The quality of teaching is consistently high because teachers never accept anything less. Learning support assistants play a full part in the classroom and complement the work of teachers well. An excellent programme of continuing professional development for staff makes sure that there is complete focus on learning. All these factors ensure that the school sets and meets its challenging targets.
The personal development and well-being of pupils are outstanding. This is the result of the excellent care, guidance and support they receive. Pupils behave extremely well both in and out of lessons. They show care, respect and consideration for each other and for adults. The pupils contribute effectively to the school and wider community. They have participated in an annual singing festival, dressed a local shop window, raised money for charity and have contributed to the Slough Art Exhibition. Extra curricular activities provide pupils with opportunities to grow vegetables in the Foundation Stage and to attend the lunch time gardening club. This adds to their enjoyment of school. Pupils say that they would like more clubs like these. A comprehensive array of visits and visitors enriches the creative curriculum. The standard of artwork on display in school is super and it is clear that the school maximises the use of the locality to enrich geography teaching. There are many 'theme days' and weeks where pupils celebrate cultural diversity and where they can investigate and learn independently.
Assessment, and its use in tracking pupils' progress is rigorous. The school is aware that girls achieve a little better than boys and has strategies in place to remedy this. Boy's performance has been affected in some year groups by a number of casual admissions close to the time of the Y2 assessments. Pupils are set targets and teachers refer to these in lessons. Books are marked regularly and comments help pupils know whether they have achieved a target and what they need to do to improve their work.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children begin school with a range of early learning experiences. They are working at levels which are just below those expected for their age. The presentation of challenging learning opportunities enables teachers to pinpoint children's needs accurately and as a result they make excellent progress during their time in the Foundation Stage. Children are extremely kind and considerate of the needs of others and make outstanding progress in their physical, personal, social and emotional development. By the time they enter Year 1, the vast majority have reached the early learning goals. At the centre of the Foundation Stage is a focus on ensuring that children begin to manage their own learning, cooperate with others and become self-assured. They have high levels of curiosity and become absorbed in imaginative play. One child spoke clearly about using binoculars to watch the birds. The concentration of the children is excellent and they demonstrate excellent behaviour. Teachers and their assistants are knowledgeable about how young children learn and planning is detailed and sharp. They skilfully encourage early writing in a range of activities. Staff ensure that they plan carefully for the needs of those children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. During the inspection, one child with hearing and visual impairment was supported well whilst learning to ride a tricycle. Those children new to learning English make rapid progress because of a real and sustained focus on speaking and listening. The cramped accommodation in the Foundation Stage limits the type of activities in which children can participate.
What the school should do to improve further
- Implement plans to provide improved accommodation for the Foundation Stage.