This inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
Shorefields is a specialist technology college of average size with significantly more boys than girls on roll. It serves an area with exceptionally high levels of social and economic deprivation. The percentage of students eligible for free school meals is amongst the highest in the country. Almost half the students are from minority ethnic backgrounds, a very high proportion when compared with the national average. A significant number of these are from Black British-African or other Black heritages. The proportion of students who join the school other than at the usual times is very high. A large number of recent arrivals come from Eastern Europe. About a quarter of the students speak English as an additional language: 45 are at the early stages of learning the language. Twenty seven first languages are spoken by students. Just over half the students have learning difficulties and/or disabilities, a very high proportion compared with the national picture. However, the number with statements of special educational need is average. Provision for sixth form students is made in partnership with four local schools that together make up the Faiths' Sixth Form Collaborative. The school has a very small sixth form, with most students in Year 12. The school has gained a healthy schools award.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Shorefields is a good school where the needs and aspirations of each student are paramount. Characterised by racial integration and respect for diversity, it is a harmonious community to which staff and students alike are strongly committed. Students wear their uniform with pride and take care of the school environment. They behave well, show positive attitudes to learning and enjoy life at school. The wide range of extra-curricular clubs is popular and students appreciate the benefits of the Starr Fields sports facility. Both contribute well to the development of healthy lifestyles by students. Rates of attendance are rising as a consequence of a range of well-considered strategies, such as texting students and parents to report absences. However, this improvement is tempered by the erratic attendance of some groups of recently arrived students whose previous experience of formal schooling is limited. So, overall attendance is low compared with the national average.
When students join the school in Year 7 their attainment is low. Overall, standards are very low for those admitted at other times, many of whom are recent immigrants speaking little or no English. Standards are low compared to national averages by the end of both Key Stages 3 and 4, particularly in literacy and numeracy. However, the school met its challenging GCSE targets in 2007 and its robust data indicate that results in 2008 are likely to come close to this year's targets.
Overall, achievement is good. A number of factors enable a significant proportion of students to achieve highly from low starting points. Good teaching; good support to learn English as an additional language; well-targeted support for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities; and a curriculum responsive to students' needs and preferences, all combine with exemplary care to enable the majority of students to move forward well. However, despite the best efforts of the school and its partner agencies, a number of students left school in 2007 with few or no qualifications. Their complex social circumstances and high levels of emotional need formed major barriers to their achievement and personal development. There are fewer students with similarly high levels of need in the current Year 11 cohort.
Leadership and management are good. The school runs smoothly day-to-day and responsibilities are delegated effectively. There is good collaboration between senior and middle leaders in moving the school forward, building well on strong practice and success in the specialist area of technology. Since the previous inspection significant improvements have been made to the curriculum, recognising the particular needs of students who join the school with weak basic skills and limited experiences of learning. The innovative curriculum for students from Year 9 onwards has outstanding features. Although too soon to evaluate the full impact of this development, signs of success in early examination entries are promising. The school's specialist work has also contributed well to the development of teaching and learning styles: these complement the vocational courses introduced and foster independent learning skills. These developments illustrate well the school's good capacity to improve.
Procedures to monitor and evaluate the quality of provision are well established and effectively used to bring about improvements. Alongside the systematic tracking of students' attainment, progress and personal development, these provide senior leaders with a considerable amount of management information. However, although this is used efficiently at an operational level, it is not employed to best effect to gain a coherent overview of the school's position or to thoroughly inform its strategic plans. The school provides good value for money, using resources imaginatively at times, for instance, in the development of the 'Step Room' to promote successful transition from primary education.
Effectiveness of the sixth form
This is a good sixth form that provides well for the particular groups of students it serves. It gives good value for money. Good advice and guidance in Year 11 ensure that students start on courses, within or beyond the collaborative, that meet their academic needs. The school provides a good range of courses, principally targeted at level 1 and level 2 qualifications: these recruit students with standards that are well below those typically found in sixth forms. Good teaching, combined with strong care and guidance, results in students making good progress. They also develop good basic skills, where needed, through the additional courses provided. The overall standards reached are well below average for sixth forms. However, all students are meeting or exceeding the challenging targets set for them, with a significant proportion achieving merits or distinctions in the course assessments. There is a small group who follow an A-level information and communication technology course: all are set to pass. Nearly all have secured a place at university and the rest are entering employment. Leadership is good. Students' progress is tracked well, strengths in provision are known and areas for development identified. Overall retention rates are good although there were a number of students who, with good support, moved successfully to other provision: all are now in training or work. A key strength of this sixth form is the support provided for all students and, in particular, for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those who speak English as an additional language. Consequently, students are well prepared to move on to their next level of employment and training. Students value highly the enrichment programmes, such as the impressive trips to South Africa, New York and Cuba, and the activities that enable them to develop their self-confidence and widen their horizons.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise standards in literacy and numeracy
- Raise rates of attendance particularly for groups of hard-to-reach students
- Develop a coherent, whole-school approach to self-evaluation better to inform the school's strategic planning.
Achievement and standards
Grade for sixth form: 2
Students enter the school with standards that are low, particularly in literacy and numeracy. In addition, there is a significant proportion of students who join the school at different times and in different year groups who generally have very weak basic skills. Standards reached by the end of Year 9 in the national tests are consistently low in the core subjects. Standards reached by the end of Year 11 have risen over the last five years, albeit from a very low base. In 2007, GCSE results were well below national expectations, with particularly low numbers of students gaining five or more A* to C grade passes including English and mathematics. However, performance was closer to national averages in the school's specialist areas of design technology and science where the school met its targets.
The pace of progress is very slow through Key Stage 3 as students have significant ground to make up in terms of literacy and numeracy skills and confidence in learning. As these skills are developed, students' progress gains momentum: this is more evident in their progress in Key Stage 4. Given their initial starting points, overall students make good progress by the time they leave school, reaching the challenging targets set for them. Those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those who speak English as an additional language make very good progress because of the closely targeted additional support they receive.
Inspection evidence shows that standards have risen since the last inspection. The improvement in standards and progress is being accelerated as students now start GCSE courses in Year 9. Furthermore, the school's tracking data and external moderation of completed modules on examination courses show that around one third of students will have achieved a significant number of GCSE passes before they enter Year 11.
Personal development and well-being
Grade for sixth form: 2
Students' personal development and well-being are good. Shorefields provides a safe and secure environment in which students are happy, treat others with respect, and behave well in lessons and around the school. Students' cultural awareness is greatly enhanced as a result of belonging to this diverse and caring community. They develop a keen sense of right and wrong and an understanding of different faiths. 'Project Lessons' are enjoyed by students and help them learn how to reflect and to share their ideas and feelings. Students generally feel that bullying is dealt with swiftly and they are appreciative of the help and support available. The personal, social and health education programme contributes effectively to students' awareness of keeping safe and of being responsible citizens. Students recognise the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle and participate in a broad range of activities and sports. The student council is an active and influential team that has engaged in lesson observations to improve teaching, as well as effecting improvements to facilities. Whilst still low compared with the national average, attendance is improving as a result of a whole-school focus and effective strategies. The school has met government targets set as part of a national programme. However, the challenge to improve the attendance of some groups of students who have little previous experience of formal schooling, or who join the school with a history of chronic absence, remains. Students' preparation for work and adult life is satisfactory despite low skill levels in literacy and numeracy. Effective group work in lessons, enterprise activities, work experience and good careers guidance all make a good contribution to this.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Grade for sixth form: 2
The good quality of teaching and learning helps most students do well. Since the previous inspection the school has effectively put in place strategies that make lessons more enjoyable and learning more effective. Most teachers set clear learning objectives that give a good sense of purpose and understanding to the students' learning. The students respond well because they recognise and trust their teachers' subject expertise. The wide range of group and pair work in many lessons sustains good levels of participation and supports progress. Many lessons are planned to help students develop better independent learning skills. In the main, students know how well they are doing and how to improve, although not all are certain about this. Most lessons include some stimulating fast-paced question and answer sessions. In the very best lessons teachers offer some extremely challenging open-ended questions that stretch the students' thinking. In a minority of lessons observed the learning objectives were too imprecise to be helpful and the tasks set were not demanding enough. The help provided for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is particularly effective, both through support in lessons and separate sessions to improve their literacy. Well-focused teaching and support help those students whose first language is not English make good progress both in understanding English and in their other subjects.
Curriculum and other activities
Grade for sixth form: 2
Thoughtful planning has led to the development of a good curriculum. An outstanding feature is the excellent range of vocational and academic courses currently taken by students in Years 9 and 10. These popular courses offer a lot of individual choice and very good opportunities for more students to gain qualifications at an earlier stage of their life in school than has been the case in the past. It is too soon to assess the full impact of this exciting initiative. Imaginative planning has led to the introduction of courses to encourage independent learning throughout Years 7 to 9, including good opportunities to develop enterprise skills. Students enjoy the good range of extra-curricular opportunities, particularly in sport and the arts. There is a comprehensive programme for personal, social, health and careers education. Students at various stages of learning English and those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are given appropriate time to follow a range of programmes that help them progress well.
Care, guidance and support
Grade for sixth form: 2
Overall, the quality of care, guidance and support is good. There are some outstanding features. A large number of students join the school during the academic year: many have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. For a significant proportion of these students, English is not their first language. Some students arrive with a poor record of attendance and behaviour elsewhere. The school copes admirably with this diverse range of students and tailors its support around the needs of individuals and groups. Programmes to improve literacy and numeracy for students with little or no prior learning are very successful. The commitment of the staff to offer care and support to individual students is exemplary. Students' academic progress and their welfare are tracked efficiently so guidance is well-founded. Teachers and support staff work very effectively with a range of other agencies to provide a coordinated response to the needs of students and families. For example, the on-site police officer is regarded as a supportive and valuable friend by students and families alike. Exclusions rates are low and declining as a result of effective intervention strategies. The reintegration unit and the relaxation room are examples of outstanding practice that help students to overcome barriers to learning. Guidance and support for students at all transition points is very good. For example, the innovative 'Step Room' programme offers a stimulating and enjoyable experience of secondary school life for pupils from local primary schools. Child protection procedures are robust and clearly understood.
Leadership and management
Grade for sixth form: 2
Leadership and management are good. The headteacher's collegiate leadership style ensures that responsibilities are efficiently distributed so that both senior and key middle leaders play significant roles in the school's development. Leaders and managers at all levels are committed to improvement and have successfully introduced changes that are resulting in rising standards and better provision. The school's specialist status provided the catalyst for many of these developments. Curriculum innovations ensure that the needs of individual students are met more aptly through vocational courses and early opportunities to gain qualifications. They have been accompanied by an approach for younger students that provides a stable learning environment, fostering their personal development and building their basic skills. A broader range of teaching styles has been introduced successfully. These are better matched to the independent learning skills required by the newer courses and prepare students more effectively for work and adult life.
Effective systems of accountability are in place. Regular monitoring and evaluation, carried out by both senior and middle leaders, identify areas for development efficiently and contribute to the process of continuous improvement. This is enhanced by the accurate tracking of each student's progress. As a consequence, the school has substantial information about its performance. However, this is not mustered to full effect, or informed as well as possible by the sharp analysis of data, to track whole school trends or provide a fully coherent platform for the school's longer term strategic planning.
Governance is good: governors are committed and work hard to support the school. Through the 'Governors Praise Panel', they play a regular, key role in challenging students whose conduct is less than the school expects as well as praising those who have achieved success across a range of endeavours. Parents support the school's aims and strong links with the local community help to create a sense of belonging and pride in the school.