The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The school is smaller than average. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is higher than usually found, but is reducing year by year. An above average percentage of pupils come from minority ethnic backgrounds and almost 20% of pupils have English as an additional language. These percentages are increasing annually. About a third of pupils have been identified as having learning difficulties, the majority of which are behavioural, emotional and social. This is above average and the percentage with a statement of educational need is also above average. The percentage of pupils entering or leaving the school other than at the usual times is much higher than usually found.
The school is in a 'soft federation' with another local school. The headteacher of St Edmund Roman Catholic School has been the executive headteacher of Our Lady since September 2006.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Our Lady is a satisfactory and improving school. Pupils receive a satisfactory standard of education. The majority of parents who returned the inspection questionnaire are happy with the school. One wrote, 'Socially and academically I have really noticed how my child's confidence has grown.' Since her arrival, the good leadership and management of the headteacher has ensured that there has been an improvement in the quality of teaching and in the standards achieved by learners. The headteacher and deputy headteacher have a clear vision for the school's future. Despite the very recent arrival of the deputy headteacher, they are already working well together as a team. However, they have rightly recognised that other layers of management are less effective. Because of this, leadership and management are satisfactory overall. Governance is effective and governors are not afraid to challenge the school and question its decision making. Their role of being critical friends is developing well.
The school achieves just below average standards overall and progress is satisfactory. The teaching is satisfactory although this is not always good enough to ensure that pupils improve their learning, make up for lost time and begin to make consistently good progress. This is particularly the case amongst the higher attaining pupils who are not effectively challenged in lessons. There is evidence of some good practice amongst some teaching assistants, but too often, they are slow to show initiative and be proactive when appropriate. Senior leaders have plans in place to promote better progress through an improved curriculum. Plans show a change of approach to project based learning to enable more links to be made across subjects to make learning more meaningful. A large contingent of new teaching staff is in place for September and programmes of support are ready for implementation so they can settle in quickly.
Satisfactory care, guidance and support ensures that pupils' personal development and well-being are satisfactory. Pupils behave well and enjoy school. Currently there is not as much opportunity to contribute to the school or wider community as pupils would wish. However, there are effective links with some local businesses which provide reading partners for pupils. This helps develop pupils' basic skills and contributes satisfactorily to their economic well-being. The school's marking policy is clear but staff do not ensure it is used consistently so that pupils know their targets and how to improve their work. The school's actions to improve pupil attendance have yet to result in any significant improvement. This was an issue at the time of the previous inspection.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children make satisfactory progress in the Foundation Stage overall. Children start school with skills, knowledge and understanding that are well below that of typical three-year-olds, particularly their language skills. They settle into school routines well and make satisfactory progress overall but good progress in their personal, social and emotional development. They gain confidence and independence in choosing indoor and outside activities, though the Reception children do not have free access to an outside area in the mornings. There is an effective balance between adult led and child initiated activities. Teachers' planning includes focused activities led by adults, though there is not a strong emphasis on the development of pupils' speaking skills. Pupils make choices, they work and play enthusiastically, sustain concentration and relate well to each other and to adults. The learning environment is safe and teachers try to make it attractive, though much of the furniture and equipment is old and tired looking. School leaders have a clear understanding of weaknesses in provision, notably the need to ensure that the outdoor access is improved to enable all Foundation Stage children to participate in high quality outdoor activities and more spontaneous learning.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve the quality of teaching and learning so that all pupils make good progress and achieve higher standards across the school.
- Ensure that all higher attaining pupils are consistently challenged in lessons.
- Ensure that pupils know how well they are doing and what they should do to improve.
- Significantly improve attendance.
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 below average but pupils' achievement is satisfactory considering their starting points. Children join the Foundation Stage with low levels of skills for their age and get off to a satisfactory start to their education. Progress across year groups is inconsistent because of a legacy of ineffective teaching. This means that, in some years, pupils have been making limited progress. Standards at the end of Year 2 are rising and are higher in 2008 than at any time since the last inspection. However, they are still below average. Year 6 results have fluctuated in recent years and after particularly impressive results in 2007 have dipped slightly in 2008. Overall results in 2008 are below those expected for Year 6 but in English, the majority of pupils reached the levels expected for their age. Currently pupils are making satisfactory progress in lessons. However, pupils of higher abilities do not achieve as well as they should because teachers do not have high enough expectations of what they can achieve, and in some lessons, too little is expected of them. Those pupils with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties attain as well as their classmates because there are high expectations of behaviour in classrooms. Pupils whose first language is not English also achieve satisfactorily.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils say that they feel safe at school and they know that they can talk to an adult if they have problems. They are aware of the importance of a healthy diet and taking regular exercise. They say that their teachers 'are really nice' and that they 'learn and have fun at the same time.' Behaviour in lessons and around the school is good. Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. Relationships amongst pupils in the school and between pupils and their teachers are good. They contribute to the local and wider communities by taking part in fund raising activities such as helping to fund a school building in South Africa and by supporting a local shelter for homeless people. Pupils have a limited range of responsibilities, though a School Council has recently been established. Pupils make satisfactory progress in the development of their literacy and numeracy skills. Attendance is inadequate and the school's attempts to improve it are having a limited impact.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are inconsistent across the school which results in pupils making uneven progress. Teaching in Year 6 last year and this year has been outstanding because high quality teachers from the federated school have taught in 'Our Lady'. Last year, this was also the case in Year 2. This has had an impact on pupil's achievement in these year groups where it was at least good. In an excellent mathematics lesson, pupils were challenged to think hard when tackling activities such as making trapeziums from tangram shapes. The quality of teaching across most of the rest of the school is satisfactory but is limited in its effectiveness to raise standards and increase rates of progress. Not enough pupils have opportunities to express their thinking and ideas through talking in lessons. Teachers are beginning to use interactive whiteboards more effectively to enliven learning. Lesson planning is improving but many lessons still do not cater effectively for the full range of abilities. This leads to a lack of challenge, particularly for more able pupils. Marking of pupils' work is not always regular and although there are examples of good marking, this practice is not consistent. Comments in many exercise books do not ensure that pupils know what to do to improve.
Curriculum and other activities
Pupils make satisfactory progress because the curriculum meets all statutory requirements. However, the school does not cater for the needs of all pupils, such as the higher attainers, who need more challenging learning opportunities. The satisfactory curriculum successfully encourages children to be healthy and effectively promotes children's personal development and well-being. Enrichment includes weekly teaching by visiting sports teachers from two local secondary schools and from a singing teacher. As a result pupils achieve well in these areas. The school plans to introduce African drumming, a visiting artist and a programme of drama from September 2008 to extend learning opportunities further. There is a range of extra curricular activities, though these are mostly sports and are for Key Stage 2 pupils. The confidence and skills of pupils are developed well. For example, when planning class visits, pupils choose the destination and then have to devise ways of raising the money to enable the visit to proceed.
Care, guidance and support
The school provides satisfactory care, guidance and support for pupils. They receive good pastoral care and the arrangements for safeguarding them are secure. There are some good examples of assessment practice in the school, for example, when pupils are given opportunities to explain their thinking and when they are given feedback on how well they are doing. However, this practice is inconsistent and generally does not ensure that all pupils receive good academic guidance about how well they are achieving, how they can assess their own learning, and how they can improve further. Arrangements for the support for pupils with behavioural, emotional, social and physical difficulties are satisfactory and there are well-established links with external agencies. The partner school has been particularly helpful in this aspect of provision.
Leadership and management
The school judges the quality of leadership and management as satisfactory and inspection evidence agrees. The leadership and management of the headteacher are good. The new deputy headteacher has settled into the school well. The headteacher has worked hard to introduce and build upon a manageable range of initiatives to improve standards, teaching and learning. Some of these have had an impact in rising attainment in Year 2 and have secured improvements to assessment. Although many staff are leaving this year, the school is fully staffed for September. This means new appointments at both senior and middle management level. The headteacher views this positively and welcomes the opportunity to build a clear vision for the future of the school. Systems to check on the quality of teaching and hold teachers to account for their pupils' progress are established. The quality of school self-evaluation is satisfactory and very accurate but, as yet, there are insufficient people involved in the process. Governors hold the school to account well for its work and are effective critical friends. In light of all these elements, currently there is satisfactory capacity to improve.