The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors.
The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: pupils’ achievement, particularly at Key Stage 1; the quality of teaching and the effectiveness of the school’s self-evaluation. Evidence was gathered from the school’s own data, tests results, teachers’ records, observations of teaching, scrutiny of pupils’ work and discussions with the headteacher, staff, pupils, governors and the local authority (LA). 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 and these have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
This is a smaller than average school nationally, situated close to the centre of Sedbergh in Cumbria. Pupils are drawn from a wide range of social backgrounds and the vast majority are of White British heritage with a small number from minority ethnic groups. The school serves an extensive rural area. A number of families live outside the immediate locality. A lower proportion of pupils than normal are entitled to a free school meal and a smaller than average percentage has a learning difficulty and/or disability. When children start school, their attainment is generally in line with that expected for their age. The school has gained several awards including the Healthy Schools Standard, PE Activemark, Chartermark for Inclusion and the kite mark for Early Excellence in Education and Playwise.
Overall effectiveness of the school
‘I feel confident that my child is challenged in all aspects of his learning’. ‘We view the school and staff as an extension of our family’. These sentiments expressed by some parents and echoed overwhelmingly by others go to the heart of why Sedbergh Primary is an outstanding school. Pupils’ achievements are excellent. They reach consistently high standards in their work and make exceptionally good progress in their personal development. Pupils behave very well, have positive attitudes and greatly enjoy their learning as demonstrated by their good attendance and their enthusiasm for the wide range of opportunities that the school provides. They have an excellent awareness of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and a balanced diet. When asked to identify the best things about the school pupils emphasised that lessons are often fun, they feel very safe and everyone gets on well together. They found it difficult to think of any improvements that could be made. There was clear agreement that they liked ‘everything!’ and strong praise for the way that staff can be relied upon to help and support them. Older pupils take good care of younger ones; pupils and their families are well known. Staff are caring and vigilant and responsive to each individual. All required checks, systems and procedures are in place to safe-guard the pupils’ well-being. Pupils express opinions, make decisions and show initiative through circle time sessions and the work of the school council. They raise substantial funds for charities and develop a strong social conscience. The school is held in high regard in the local community and has forged outstanding partnerships with other schools and agencies.
Pupils, including those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities come on in leaps and bounds from the moment they enter the school. By the time they leave in Year 6, the proportions reaching the expected Level 4 and at the higher Level 5 are well above average in English, mathematics and science. This represents outstanding achievement considering their starting points. Nevertheless, the school is aware that the progress that some pupils make at the end of Key Stage 1, in reading and writing is not as rapid as elsewhere. This is because of past difficulties in securing permanent staff in Year 2 which has led to inconsistencies in the teaching and learning for some groups of learners, particularly the more able.
A significant factor in pupils’ high achievement is that teaching is outstanding overall. Furthermore, the curriculum is very well planned with excellent opportunities for enrichment and enjoyment. Teachers have high expectations. Their good subject knowledge and effective questioning keeps pupils on their toes. Teaching assistants make a valuable contribution and provide a very good layer of extra support in all classes. In the very best lessons pupils are encouraged to test and deepen their understanding by directing their own activities, applying their knowledge in real life situations and sharing their ideas with others. For example, in an outstanding science lesson in Year 6, pupils made model wind turbines and were able to explore the changes they could make to them by using their skills of research and scientific enquiry. In addition, pupils were challenged in their thinking by suggesting ways to produce energy in different climates. Where lessons are less successful the school recognises that learning could be enhanced still further if some teachers had greater confidence to broaden the range of teaching strategies to stimulate pupils’ greater involvement in learning.
The success of the school is underpinned by outstanding leadership and management at all levels, spearheaded by the headteacher. She is passionate about maximising the potential of every child in a caring and structured environment where all pupils are encouraged to grow in confidence and self-esteem. She is very well supported by the drive and commitment of staff and governors who share her vision and sense of direction. As a result, morale is high, teamwork is very strong and staff are forward thinking and reflective. As a group they are not complacent and actively seek ways to improve further the current position. This means that there is very strong agreement on the strengths of the school and where further improvements can be made. For example senior leaders are well aware that the school improvement plan requires some fine tuning to ensure an even stronger focus on raising achievement and sharper criteria for measuring success.
The governing body plays an effective role in shaping the school’s direction and in holding it to account. Its members are extremely committed and offer high levels of support and challenge. They are confident in asking difficult questions and are involved in evaluating the school’s performance and planning for improvement.
The school had made outstanding progress since its last inspection. As a result and along with its other strengths, the school has excellent capacity to improve further.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children’s love of learning begins in the Nursery. They make a good start and achieve well. The warm and welcoming atmosphere provides a positive climate for learning where children feel safe and secure. Within a stimulating environment activities are well chosen and children are given every opportunity to explore the world around them. As one parent commented, ‘Each day is a new adventure for my child and the staff provide a varied curriculum which he thoroughly enjoys’. Teaching is purposeful, questions challenge children’s thinking and practical learning is supported well by stimulating resources. For example, in one session, children made good progress in their language and communication by pretending to be vets in a clinic. Elsewhere, children discussed creatures in and around their homes and made their own spider’s web with tape and string. In Reception, children wrote postcards to a friend and extended their vocabulary with role play activities at the seaside. Staff are skilled in knowing exactly how to intervene in activities to take learning forward. As a consequence, children become engrossed in their learning and have the confidence to choose activities for themselves.
Children’s progress is checked regularly and provides a clear picture of what they need to learn next. This means that by the beginning of Year 1, most children are achieving and exceeding the levels expected from them and have made good progress. Parents are kept well informed and are encouraged to become actively involved in their children’s learning. Leadership and management are effective and ensure that teachers work well as a team. Good links with Year 1 ensure continuity in learning.
What the school should do to improve further
- Accelerate pupils’ progress further in reading and writing by the end of Key Stage 1.