The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector. The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: the effectiveness of systems to track children's progress and how these systems are used to decide on actions to raise standards, particularly in writing; the effectiveness of teaching and learning in meeting the needs of all children; and whether clear direction has been set for improvement by the headteacher, senior staff and governors to raise standards and drive the school forward.
Evidence was gathered from the school's self-evaluation; the school's assessment records; observation of the school at work; discussions with children, staff, parents and governors; and analysis of parental questionnaires. All classrooms were visited. Other aspects of the school's work were not investigated 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. These have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
Most of the children attending this large infant school come from the surrounding urban area. A below average proportion of children are identified as having learning difficulties and/or disabilities, although an above average number of children have a statement of special educational needs. The main needs are communication and physical difficulties. There have been many staff changes during the last year and the headteacher was appointed in April 2008.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a satisfactory school providing a sound education for its children. There are particular strengths in the strong pastoral care and in the children's good personal development. Virtually all the parents are extremely supportive of the school and are very pleased with the way their children are cared for. One parent captured the views of many in commenting, 'This is a friendly school, the headteacher and all the staff are very approachable and nothing is too much trouble.' A small number of parents expressed concerns regarding behaviour and supervision at lunchtimes but the inspector found no cause for concern during the inspection. Understandably, a few parents felt anxious regarding the many staff changes in recent times. However, the majority share one parent's view that, 'The school is fab, despite a number of changes it has been business as usual throughout.'
Children make satisfactory progress from starting points that are similar to those expected for their age when they enter the Reception classes, although their writing skills and their ability to link sounds and letters are lower. By the time children enter Year 1, standards are broadly in line with those expected in all the areas of learning. Standards are broadly average by the end of Year 2 and pupils' achievement is satisfactory. The progress of children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is satisfactory and they receive appropriate support. The advent of a new headteacher has resulted in a renewed sense of purpose amongst staff and governors after a difficult time with many staff changes. The headteacher is a good leader and has quickly established a very accurate view of the school's strengths and areas for improvement. Wasting no time, she has implemented highly effective actions to improve the planning and organisation in the Foundation Stage. Parents and children are very pleased with the transformation and observations such as 'The children are enjoying the new layout of the rooms, they love the snack table and the freedom of the open door to the outside play area to explore and learn,' were typical of many comments received.
The school is currently undergoing a full review of its curriculum in order to make it more relevant to the children's interests and sustain their motivation to learn. This is entirely appropriate, as although it meets requirements, it does not currently identify opportunities to develop literacy skills across subjects. A wide range of visits and visitors, after school clubs and opportunities to take part in exciting activities, such as a recent whole-school topic on the Olympics, all serve to broaden children's experiences and enrich their learning effectively.
Children say they love school and this is reflected in their good attendance. They say they would not want to change anything apart from some fresh paint on the walls and brighter doors. Children are kind and considerate in their dealings with each other and the attractive and very large playground is a happy place. Behaviour is good and children love being school councillors and discussing ways to improve the school. They are currently very excited about the prospect of having a pet rabbit and are eagerly discussing names. Children have a good understanding of the need to stay safe and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Years 1 and 2 pupils and the staff participate enthusiastically in the daily outdoor wake and shake activities. Children leave the school with good personal skills and average standards in basic skills, which ensure they are soundly prepared for the next stage in their education.
The school is a highly caring community and the relationships between adults and children are good. Consequently, children feel valued and secure. Children are well looked after. A wealth of assessment information is collected but until recently this has not been focused enough. Systems for checking children's academic progress are improving and as a result the school is beginning to identify more effectively where children need more support. However, currently, assessment information is not used consistently to ensure the needs of all children are met.
Children have good attitudes towards their work. They say they enjoy learning because their teachers are kind and use lots of praise. Teaching is satisfactory overall, although some good teaching and learning was observed during the inspection. This good teaching is not sufficiently widespread to ensure that all children make the best progress possible. On some occasions, tasks are not sufficiently well matched to the differing abilities of children and more able children are not given sufficient challenge in the work they are set, which inhibits their progress.
Leadership and management are satisfactory. The new headteacher is a good leader who has a very clear vision and knows precisely what the school needs to do to improve further. Together with the deputy headteacher she is taking swift and decisive actions to bring this about. The use of data, by senior staff and governors, to check the school's performance is beginning to improve. As a result, the leadership team is starting to adopt sensible strategies to bring about improvements in order to raise standards and achievement. This is illustrated by the recent successful improvement to the way reading is taught. The school's self-evaluation is good and, based on its track record there is a satisfactory capacity for further improvement. The governing body is very supportive of the school. Governors' monitoring role is improving and they have a satisfactory picture of how well the school is performing.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children make satisfactory progress and standards are average in all the areas of learning at the start of Year 1. Good emphasis on the development of basic skills, such as phonics, helps children's early reading and writing skills. Parents like the way their children settle quickly and happily. This is because the care and attention given to children's welfare are good. Good improvements have been made to the planning and organisation of the Foundation Stage this term. There is now an improved balance between those activities led by the teacher and those that children choose for themselves. Children are starting to experience a lively, exciting and interesting curriculum both indoors and outdoors. Interesting role-play areas such as an ice cream van and a Chinese restaurant promote children's language skills effectively. Teaching is satisfactory and improving as staff become increasingly confident with the new organisation. The headteacher, working in close cooperation with the Foundation Stage leader, is providing good leadership and management and provision has improved rapidly and dramatically.
What the school should do to improve further
- Plan and provide more opportunities for children to develop and practise their literacy skills in all subjects.
- Enable teachers to use assessment more effectively to plan lessons that meet the needs of all children and ensure the more able are sufficiently challenged.
- Improve the quality of teaching so that it is consistently good or better to ensure all children achieve well and reach higher standards.
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.