The inspection was carried out by four Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Parkside School is a smaller than average comprehensive school. The school serves an area of higher than average deprivation and the number of students entitled to free school meals is well above the national average. The number of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is also above the national average. Nearly all students come from White British backgrounds. In September 2006 the school was designated a specialist sports college.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Parkside School provides its students with a satisfactory and improving education. The school has an ethos which values all students equally. The impact of this is evident in students’ attitudes to their learning and their relationships in school. The school has many good features which have been developed through the vision and drive of the headteacher and the effective work of staff.
Standards are average and students make satisfactory progress which is improving over time. There is a strong determination amongst all staff to improve achievement and standards across the school and they are now rising, although the school accepts there is still some way to go. Current standards are rising in both key stages, although improvement at Key Stage 3, particularly in English, is slower than at Key Stage 4.
Students’ personal development and well being are good. Their attendance has improved and behaviour is good. They say they feel safe in school and recognise that for each student a number of staff can be relied on to help and support them. They recognise the need for healthy lifestyles and many of them take part in after-school activities. Students make significant contributions to the community in a number of ways, including charitable work.
The quality of teaching and learning is good across both key stages and inspectors agreed with the school’s self evaluation. Good quality teaching and learning is now beginning to impact positively on achievement. Planning is of a consistently high standard and meets the range of needs of the students. Lessons are taught with enthusiasm and praise is used well to encourage students in their learning.
The school offers a good curriculum which meets the needs of all learners and benefits from its specialist status in sport. Additional funding has enabled the school to upgrade its information and communication technology resources and this has had a positive impact on learning. Plans for developing the specialism are not yet included in whole school improvement planning.
Care, guidance and support are good and are beginning to contribute significantly to students’ achievement. Students’ progress is monitored well, particularly if they are in danger of underachieving or at risk of disaffection. Identification leads to focused intervention by teachers to boost the achievement of students who fall behind.
The leadership and management of the school are good. There are clear signs of rapid improvement in all aspects of the school’s work. The headteacher and staff have a common sense of purpose and a clear picture of the school’s performance. They are securely focused on raising standards and achievement. The senior team is robustly tackling underachievement at both key stages. They demonstrate good capacity to improve the school further. Governors are committed to the school but a better understanding of some aspects of the school’s work is needed to enable them to support and challenge the school effectively.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise standards and improve achievement further at both key stages, in particular at Key Stage 3 and in English.
- Include planning for sport within the school’s improvement plan.
- Develop the role of governors to ensure they are able to support and challenge the school.
A small proportion of 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
The standards and achievement of students is satisfactory overall. Students joining the school at age 11 have reached standards similar to those found nationally. However, their literacy skills are often below average. For the last 3 years, standards in national tests in English and mathematics at the end of Key Stage 3 have been well below average. Current standards at Key Stage 3 are improving and Year 9 students are on track to meet their challenging targets and to reach standards in line with the national average.
The standards reached by students at Key Stage 4 have been well below average. In 2007 the number of students who gained the equivalent of at least 5 good grades at GCSE was below average, even though this was the highest results the school had achieved for 3 years. The proportion gaining 5 or more GCSEs including English and mathematics was lower still. These students entered the school with standards which were below the national average and with significantly lower levels of literacy than might be expected. Results were also affected by some students being on inappropriate courses. The school has analysed thoroughly reasons for underachievement and has taken effective action to address them. These actions are already impacting positively on the current Year 10 and 11 students. The school’s own tracking of students’ progress confirms an improving picture, with significant improvement in English and mathematics. Standards have been low, but they are now much better. The school has turned a corner. In lessons, inspectors saw students making progress which was at least satisfactory.
Students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities progress at least as well as others because of the good systems in place to support them.
Personal development and well-being
Students’ personal development and well being are good. Through participation in the range of sporting activities outside lessons, students respond well to encouragement to lead a healthy lifestyle. Students speak confidently about life at school, showing enjoyment and a positive response to the opportunities provided for them.
Students say they feel safe at school; the school has an award winning anti bullying policy. The behaviour of students is good both in lessons and around school, showing that students are responding positively to the school’s clear and high expectations. Relationships are good and students get on well with each other and with staff. As a result the school is a well ordered and friendly community.
An important issue for the school has been to raise attendance. There are now very effective strategies in place, including contact with home on the first day of a student’s absence and a significant range of rewards for good attendance. There has also been a significant decline in exclusions. As a result of these actions, attendance is now good.
Students make a positive contribution to their local community and beyond, for example through helping pupils in the primary schools with learning French and sport. They appreciate the opportunity to take responsibility by serving on the school council and are confident that their views are taken seriously. Students are proud of their effectiveness in bringing about change, for example in the development of the new school logo.
Students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. Activities such as those undertaken in the community develop their confidence and self esteem, as well as helping them to understand their growing responsibilities as young citizens. Students benefit from comprehensive careers advice, work related learning and opportunities to improve their literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology skills. This is effective preparation for their future economic well being.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good and lead to students making good progress in their learning, although this is not yet reflected in results in national tests and examinations. Some examples of outstanding teaching were seen. Classroom practice is improving markedly in response to the emphasis the school is placing on this aspect of its work; for example well targeted training for teachers has led to good use of information and communication technology in lessons. There is an increasingly positive climate for learning because relationships between staff and students are good and teachers are well skilled at managing students and keeping them on task.
The school carries out careful monitoring of lessons. Good practice in teaching and learning is shared regularly within and between departments and teachers are eager to embrace new ideas and to share them with colleagues. Assessment information about students is used effectively to inform teachers’ planning so that lessons are pitched at the right level to challenge students well. In the best lessons imaginative activities sustain students’ interest and encourage them to think for themselves and work independently. Students have opportunities to evaluate their own and other students’ work to establish a clear understanding of how to improve.
Systems to monitor students’ progress are used effectively and students are set challenging targets for improvement, which they understand. Students’ written work is regularly assessed and there are many good examples of informative feedback, helping students to improve.
Across the school, teaching assistants provide good support for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is good. It has recently been comprehensively reviewed, providing the school with a clear view of the developments needed to improve provision. Senior leaders have acted swiftly to implement the changes required. These are already having a positive impact on students’ progress. In particular, the curriculum has been adapted to meet the needs of students who may be at risk of disaffection and vulnerable students. These groups of students are well supported by the special provision for them. The emphasis on literacy and numeracy has also been strengthened for Year 7 and Year 8 students.
The curriculum provides students with the skills required to meet local economic demands through an increasing emphasis on work-related learning and vocational education. Flexibility offered to students in Years 10 and 11 allows both academic and vocational choice and ensures the changing needs, aspirations and ambitions of successive year groups are met. This is reflected in the current improvement in academic achievement.
A variety of educational trips enriches students’ experience and widens their horizons. For example a large number of drama students visited Broadway in New York to see a professional production of the play they were studying for GCSE. The school provides a wide range of well attended extra-curricular activities. Sports are particularly popular, but students are also able to pursue their creative and artistic interests in music, art and other subjects.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are good. The school provides a positive place to learn and effective pastoral care and emotional support for all its students. The school works well with a range of external agencies to ensure that every student receives appropriate support when necessary.
Procedures for the transfer of students from primary schools are good and benefit from a dedicated member of staff whose role is to support this transition. As a result, new students settle very quickly into their new surroundings. The guidance programme ensures that students receive good support when making their choices in Year 9 and when deciding on their career paths at age 16.
Effective links are maintained with parents through regular reports and consultation days which ensure that they are fully informed of their children’s educational progress. The majority of parents who expressed their opinion of the school were pleased with the care and support it provides.
The school analyses and tracks students’ academic progress very effectively and those doing less well are given support to bring them back on track. Students are clear about their personal targets although the effect of this is not yet fully evident in examination and test results.
All required procedures for safeguarding, including child protection and health and safety measures, are in place.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management at all levels are good. The very good leadership of the headteacher and her deputy is exemplified by a clear vision of improving achievement for all students. Together with the senior leadership team, they have made good progress in tackling those areas identified for improvement in the last inspection report. They have established a calm and purposeful school where students can learn without hindrance.
All staff who hold responsibility in the school share a clear understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and, as a result, they know what they need to do to improve. A range of strategies to improve the quality of teaching and learning and the curriculum have been implemented. Close monitoring of these is ensuring consistency of approach across the school. They have had an immediate impact on progress and on raising standards as evidenced in the gaining of early accreditation in examination subjects. Middle managers take increasing responsibility for monitoring the quality of teaching and learning in their departments. Similarly, the majority of teachers take a more self critical view of the quality of learning in their lessons.
The school’s sport specialism is effectively supporting improvement in the quality of provision and learning across other subjects. Further development is planned involving the community and other education partners. However, planning for this is not yet fully reflected in the school improvement plans.
Governance is satisfactory. Governors give generously of their time to support the school but some have insufficient knowledge and understanding of the school and its work and this prevents them from challenging the school effectively. The school currently provides satisfactory value for money.