The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors.
Description of the school
Ouston Junior School is a smaller than average junior school. The number on roll has been falling steadily for the past few years. Almost all pupils come from White British families. The proportion of pupils receiving free school meals is small. There are proportionately fewer pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities than in many schools. The school has achieved the Active Mark and the Healthy Schools award.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school. Aspects of pupils’ personal development and well-being and their participation in the wide range of enrichment activities provided by the school are outstanding. Parents are very supportive of the school. Pupils are well prepared for the next stage in their education both academically and personally.
Pupils really enjoy coming to Ouston Junior School and attendance levels are very high. Their behaviour in and around the school is excellent. In lessons pupils are attentive and keen to contribute ideas and suggestions. They respond positively when teachers challenge them to think hard and use their imagination. They show pride in their achievements and work productively in groups, pairs or as individuals. As they move through the school, pupils become increasingly confident and mature. They develop the ability to express their opinions clearly and to respect the views of others. Older pupils readily take on a wide range of responsibilities and are keen to look after younger pupils or those experiencing difficulty.
Pupils enter the school with standards that are slightly above average and make good progress. Those with learning difficulties and disabilities make similarly good progress and the school ensures that they participate fully in the life of the school. Despite a slight dip in 2006, the proportion of pupils reaching or exceeding the standards expected of 11 year olds is consistently above average.
Good teaching makes a significant contribution to the standards reached by pupils and the progress they make both in their learning and in their personal development. Teaching assistants and support staff are very well deployed to support learning and use their particular skills and expertise for the benefit of pupils. Teachers are well prepared and have clear learning intentions which they communicate well to pupils. In some classes these objectives are used very effectively to help pupils to evaluate their own work. However, the marking of pupils’ work does not always provide them with precise guidance about what they need to do to improve further.
The range of additional activities and out-of-school clubs is a strength of the school and promotes the personal and social development of pupils. Participation rates are very high. The range of sporting and physical activities is outstanding and makes a significant contribution to pupils’ understanding of the need for exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. Pupils are given regular opportunities to develop interpersonal and life skills and to understand the contribution they can make to society. However, in their everyday lives pupils have limited opportunities to learn about people from different cultural backgrounds. The curriculum does not provide sufficient opportunities to compensate for this.
The positive impact of leadership and management can be seen in the standards reached by pupils, the progress they make in their learning and, particularly, in their personal development. The school’s evaluation of its performance is on the whole accurate and its capacity for further improvement is good. It recognises its strengths and has a good track record of identifying areas for development and bringing about improvement. Recent improvements in the quality of pupils’ writing are an example of this. It has identified the need to improve the rate of progress for a minority of more able pupils. However, it has not yet taken sufficient action to bring about this improvement or put in place rigorous strategies to monitor and evaluate progress in this area.
What the school should do to improve further
- Put in place the actions needed to improve the progress of a minority of more able children and monitor and evaluate the impact of these actions.
- Ensure that all pupils have a clear and specific understanding of what they must do to improve their work.
- Improve pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the diversity of British society.
Achievement and standards
Achievement is good and standards are above average. Between 2001 and 2005 pupils at the end of Key Stage 2 reached standards that were significantly and consistently above national averages. The slight dip in standards in 2006 was of no educational significance.
The majority of pupils make consistently good progress as they move through the school. Pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities make similarly good progress. Those who enter the school with standards that are above the expected level maintain these high standards. The school has identified the need to improve the progress of a minority of more able pupils.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils’ personal development and well-being are good. Pupils’ spiritual, moral and social development are good and their cultural development is satisfactory.
Pupils report that they feel safe in school. Very few are aware of any bullying taking place and those that are report that it was dealt with promptly and effectively. Pupils are developing a sense of responsibility for others less fortunate than themselves. They are active fundraisers for the school and for national charities. Members of the school council are increasingly involved in the running of the school. They explored the costs and made decisions about apparatus for the development of a ‘Trim trail’ in the grounds of the school.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The quality of teaching and learning is good. This is demonstrated by the high standards reached by pupils and by the progress that they make.
The best teaching is lively, interesting and challenges pupils’ thinking. Pupils become engrossed in their learning and persevere to meet their teachers’ high expectations. The occasional withdrawal of groups of lower attaining pupils from these lessons means that they do not benefit as often as others from such good teaching.
Teachers and teaching assistants know their pupils well and are usually able to provide the right level of support or challenge to ensure that they make progress in lessons. However, occasionally tasks are not sufficiently well matched to meet the needs of pupils of all levels of capability.
Curriculum and other activities
The school provides a broad, relevant and interesting curriculum that meets the needs and interests of pupils. The curriculum is under review continuously and this resulted recently in the introduction of French throughout the school.
The curriculum is enriched by visits to local places of interest and by visitors but there are not enough opportunities to promote pupils’ cultural development. Older pupils recall with obvious enjoyment their residential visits to Ford Castle and Middleton-in-Teesdale. For others the opportunity to sing in Durham Cathedral or compete as members of a local quiz team is equally memorable. The school is rightly proud of pupils’ achievements in local and national sporting competitions. However, it is careful to emphasise the importance of taking part as well as winning.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are good. Good quality care ensures pupils’ health and safety, and contributes to their feelings of security and levels of enjoyment. The support and guidance provided for pupils’ personal development are very effective. The school safeguards pupils carefully and the required procedures are in place.
The school provides a supportive environment in which pupils achieve high standards and develop positive attitudes to their work. Most reach challenging targets. In some classes, pupils are developing the ability to judge how well they are doing for themselves. The quality and effectiveness of marking are not consistent. Where marking is good, it provides pupils with clear guidance on how to improve their work.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are good. The school’s favourable reputation in the local community is well deserved. Leaders have created a common sense of purpose among staff and an ethos that promotes high standards of education and care. The school runs efficiently on a day-to-day basis and resources such as the newly created computer suite are used well.
Governors are supportive of the school. They are currently taking effective steps to maintain the smooth and efficient running of the school during a period of change to the senior leadership of the school.