The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector.
The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues:
- the current rate of pupils’ progress, especially in mathematics
- the effectiveness of the school’s systems for measuring the progress of pupils
- the confidence and independence of pupils by the time they leave school.
Evidence was gathered from discussions with the headteacher, staff, governors, and pupil representatives. In addition, several parts of lessons were observed; documents, self-evaluation, parent questionnaires and pupils’ books were scrutinised. 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 in this report where appropriate.
Description of the school
This is a small school which serves a rural area. A below average proportion of pupils are eligible for free school meals. It draws its pupils from the local village communities and beyond. All the pupils are of White British heritage. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is average. The pupils are taught in mixed age classes. In November 2005 the school moved from a 131 year old building to a new, purpose-built school on the edge of the village.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school and many aspects of its work are outstanding. This successful school attracts many pupils from outside the local catchment area and is oversubscribed. Parents are unanimous in their praise of the school, which one described as, ‘second to none’. Parents also praise the leadership of the headteacher, the commitment of the staff and the fact that children are set high expectations and given the confidence to succeed. Others praise the emphasis put on, ‘the enjoyment of learning and the fostering of natural curiosity.’
Results in the national tests fluctuate because of the small number of pupils in the cohorts. Taking an overview of the last five years, standards are generally above average and pupils achieve well. Pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities sometimes make outstanding progress and achieve well beyond expectations, given their starting points. Results in national tests at the end of Years 2 and 6 were average in 2007 but the school’s excellent tracking records show that most pupils made good progress and achieved well. The weakest area was in mathematics, where a few more able pupils did not reach the higher Level 5. Standards have been significantly above average in English for the last three years.
Pupils’ personal development, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding. Pupils feel it is their school and are rightly proud of it. Pupils are polite, friendly, welcoming to visitors and eager to talk about their learning and their school. They are confident and articulate in explaining the importance of a healthy diet, happily engage in physical fitness as part of a daily routine, and are secure in the knowledge that they are safe, well looked after and well taught. They are especially proud of achieving the Activemark recently and the Healthy Schools award in 2006. Their enjoyment of school is seen in their above average attendance and their excellent behaviour. Pupils make an excellent contribution to the school and wider communities. Some serve on the school council and some act as ‘playground pals’, which involves making sure that everyone enjoys break times. The school council manages its own budget and occasionally attends governors’ meetings. The local community, as well as parents, regularly have the opportunity to enjoy the pupils’ music and drama performances. Pupils give generously to charities and sponsor a child in Africa. Their outstanding personal qualities and good academic record ensure that they are very well prepared for the next stage in their education and the wider world.
Teaching and learning are good across the school and some teaching is outstanding. An atmosphere of concentration pervades all classrooms. Teachers are particularly skilled in trying to make sure that every child is appropriately challenged and encouraged to reach their potential – though occasionally the higher skills in mathematics have not been fully developed. Experienced teaching assistants and teachers provide excellent support which allows most pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities to achieve well beyond expectations. Lessons are characterised by good humour, positive relationships, pace and usually strong challenge. Marking is good, with the best marking focusing on what pupils need to do to improve further. Teachers keep detailed and comprehensive records of pupils’ progress so they know when pupils need extra support and how well they are doing. Statutory requirements for child protection are robust and the school creates a nurturing environment where pupils flourish. Pupils’ confidence and sense of self-worth is boosted through an excellent rewards system which recognises and celebrates all kinds of personal, academic, creative and physical achievement. The school promotes a ‘can do’ culture.
The school provides an excellent curriculum that motivates pupils and promotes enjoyment and achievement. In addition to a strong emphasis on English, mathematics and information and communication technology, creative links with other subjects allow pupils to develop their basic skills in enjoyable and interesting ways. The school has recently applied for the Artsmark and hopes to be assessed next term. Wherever possible the school encourages an awareness of the cultural diversity in the wider community. For example, there is a samba club and Jambe drums, visits to places of worship linked to work on Judaism and Hinduism in religious education and an interesting range of books on other cultures in the library. An excellent range of visits, visitors, after school clubs, and strong links with outside agencies considerably enrich pupils’ lives and learning. Extended schools status ensures that the school is a hive of activity most afternoons after lessons have ended for the day. This aspect of school is appreciated by pupils and the local community.
Outstanding outcomes in so many areas are the result of excellent provision and high quality leadership and management. The headteacher believes implicitly in promoting, developing and maintaining core strengths and is always seeking ways to improve an already good school. Under her leadership this small school has doubled in size and maintained consistently high standards and good achievement over several years. Governors are very supportive as well as very challenging. They have recently set themselves the target of achieving the quality mark for governance. Subject leaders take vigorous responsibility for the development of their areas, and leaders at all levels are shrewd and accurate in their self-evaluation. There is a shared vision and strong teamwork. The school plays a central part in the local community and recently chaired a ‘Vision Building Meeting’ for the three local villages, including representatives of pupils, governors, parents, local businesses, parish councillors and other interested parties. The school has close links with other small schools, local secondary schools and colleges and local businesses, all of which enhance the learning and experience of the teachers and pupils. The new building provides excellent accommodation in which the pupils take great pride. Financial dealings are prudent and the school provides good value for money. There has been effective improvement since the last inspection and the school has good capacity for further improvement.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Provision in the Foundation Stage is good. Children settle quickly because of the exemplary procedures to welcome them into school. Many parents praise the excellent links with the pre-school, which ensure a happy and successful start to their children’s education. One parent commented: ‘my daughter was so well prepared with pre-school links that from the very start she was happy and confident to attend’. Children enter the Foundation Stage with levels of attainment broadly in line with national expectations. They make good progress and when they enter Year 1 nearly all have reached or exceeded the early learning goals set for them. Staff quickly identify children who need extra help and the school provides additional support where necessary. Teaching and learning are good and children progress particularly well in mathematics and in communication, language and literacy. An exciting and stimulating environment, including a new wildlife area and outdoor classroom, gives children the opportunity to happily explore all areas of the curriculum. The Foundation Stage is very well led and managed. Frequent communications with parents, the emphasis on developing personal and social skills, and the good example of older pupils help children settle quickly and develop good attitudes to school from an early age.
What the school should do to improve further
- Increase the proportion of pupils reaching the higher level 5 in mathematics by the end of Key Stage 2.