The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The school is slightly smaller than most primary schools. Most pupils are of White British heritage. There are small groups of pupils from different ethnic minority backgrounds, all of whom are fluent in English. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties is lower than average. Children join the school in Reception with skills and abilities which are in line with those expected for their age. Since the previous inspection, the governing body has been reconstituted and a new chair has been appointed. When the school was inspected in October 2005, it was judged to require a Notice to Improve in relation to pupils' achievement, the role of the governing body and the effectiveness of monitoring and evaluation.
Overall effectiveness of the school
In accordance with section 13 (5) of the Education Act 2005, HMCI is of the opinion that the school no longer requires significant improvement. The school has tackled the issues raised at the last inspection in a robust and positive way and now provides a good standard of education. The great majority of parents are very pleased with the school's work and the progress it has made in the last twelve months. They say that the school has 'worked wonders' in improving pupils' learning and involving parents more in learning workshops.
Good leadership and management, good quality teaching, and strong determination from staff to improve has been the key to the school's success. From the good start made in Reception, where children meet the goals expected of them, pupils achieve well throughout the school and reach standards which are above average in English, mathematics and science at the end of Year 6. Through better use of assessment of pupils' progress in English and mathematics, senior leaders have worked purposefully to pinpoint gaps in pupils' learning and to carefully target support for those with learning difficulties and for others who are at risk of falling behind. The gradual decline in standards in reading, writing and mathematics at the end of Year 2 has been halted in its tracks. Standards have risen markedly and are now above average.
Pupils' good personal development is testimony to the school's good quality care, support and guidance and strong Christian ethos where pupils are nurtured as individuals. The confidence that this gives pupils contributes significantly to the progress they make. Pupils enjoy learning and have very positive attitudes to everything they do. Parents comment how 'teachers work hard to make the school a happy place to be.' Pupils are indeed happy and behave exceedingly well. They describe their school as 'a good place which is educational and friendly.'
The curriculum provided is satisfactory although the significant focus on improving English and mathematics has meant that it is less well balanced than it could be, particularly with regard to the time allocated for pupils to develop their information and communication technology (ICT) skills. Procedures for assessing the progress that pupils make in subjects other than English and mathematics are not sharp enough to give subject leaders a precise knowledge of how well pupils are doing across the curriculum.
Governance has improved well since the previous inspection and is now satisfactory. Governors are supportive of the school and have built positive relationships with staff which have improved the school's morale. The swift and effective action to address identified weaknesses, and the renewed vigour and commitment amongst senior leaders, staff and governors to work together to take the school forward, demonstrate that the school has good capacity to improve even further.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve the work of subject leaders in providing a better balanced curriculum and ensuring that pupils have sufficient opportunities to learn information and communication technology skills.
- Build on the good assessment practice already established in English and mathematics to ensure that pupils do as well as they can in every subject.
Achievement and standards
Excellent induction procedures help children to settle well in the Reception class and to quickly gain independence and confidence to learn. Careful planning and stimulating activities ensure that children make good progress in all areas of learning and meet the goals expected of them. Most enter Year 1 with good personal and social skills. They are confident speakers and listeners and have well developed physical skills although a few still struggle with their writing.
From this good starting point, pupils achieve well in Years 1 to 6. Improved monitoring of pupils' progress in English and mathematics and good strategies to support pupils falling behind with their work and those with learning difficulties have led to a reversal of the underachievement identified at the last inspection. Standards in reading, writing and mathematics improved significantly in 2006 to be above average and current work confirms that these are being maintained. By the end of Year 6, standards in English, mathematics and science are above average and pupils meet their challenging targets. Pupils who left the school in 2006 made good progress from above average starting points in Year 3 to reach exceptionally high standards in their end of year tests.
Personal development and well-being
A parent's comment that the school 'produces well mannered children who possess the right morals and outlook' reflects many others made. Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. Even the youngest children in Reception know the difference between right and wrong. Pupils' behaviour is excellent because pupils know exactly what is expected of them. They reflect carefully on their own and others' lives during Mass and in class discussions. Through the school council and fundraising and social activities, pupils make a good contribution to the school, parish and the wider community. Pupils are sociable and play well together, although some older pupils would like lunchtimes to be organised so that they have more opportunities to play with younger ones.
The good level of attendance reflects pupils' enjoyment of school. Pupils greatly appreciate merits which celebrate their successes and say they know they are achieving well 'because the teachers tell us.' They know how to keep healthy and safe and particularly mention the visit from the Life Education Caravan which helps them to learn how to look after their bodies. Pupils value the golden rules which 'make sure we are all safe and well.' Pupils are developing as confident and mature young people and are well prepared for the future.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teachers know their pupils well and want them to do their best. In English, mathematics and science, teachers use assessment information very effectively to plan lessons that make learning relevant to each pupil. Work is less precisely planned in other subjects because the procedures for assessing pupils' progress are not as well developed. As a consequence, lesson tasks are not always well enough matched to pupils' learning needs and this sometimes limits progress. Teaching assistants make a considerable contribution to pupils' progress, especially by helping those who have learning difficulties to achieve as well as others.
Teachers use interactive whiteboards well to make learning more interesting and exciting. Pupils' progress benefits from having to respond to the questions and comments teachers make about their work in discussion and through feedback in marking. Pupils are good learners. They fully understand the rules and expectations for learning and behave outstandingly well in lessons. They are committed to doing their best and enjoy celebrating their successes with their friends and their teachers.
Curriculum and other activities
The strong and caring Catholic ethos permeates all aspects of the curriculum. It provides very good additional support for personal, social and health education lessons and makes an important contribution to pupils' good development as young people. The school's focus on raising standards in English, mathematics and science has been successful. Now other subjects need to be developed further. Some of these subjects, notably ICT, are not assigned enough teaching time. Although pupils use computers to support their learning in other subjects, they do not have enough opportunities to develop their ICT skills.
The curriculum for children in Reception is good. Children experience stimulating and imaginative learning activities that entice them to explore and to learn. The many opportunities to work and play together help them to develop good social skills and prepare them well for entry into Year 1. Pupils' physical fitness is promoted and extended well through a good range of clubs, competitions with other schools and residential breaks at an outdoor activity centre. Visitors to the school, such as poets and actors, provide good quality learning experiences and contribute to pupils' growing cultural awareness.
Care, guidance and support
Child protection, risk assessment and health and safety procedures are rigorously followed by all staff. Pupils say they feel safe and secure at school. They say that the school is a 'nice place to be where everyone is very friendly and it is easy to make friends with other children.' Parents agree saying that 'the atmosphere is calm and positive' and that 'teaching staff are always available to listen to our concerns'.
Effective strategies are used to support pupils' learning in English and mathematics to ensure that pupils make good progress. Targets for learning, set for each pupil, are monitored very effectively. When pupils fail to meet their targets action is quickly taken, including providing extra work in small group sessions or through joining the lunchtime learning clubs. This good practice is not as well developed in other subjects. Careful budgeting has allowed the employment of additional skilled teaching assistants. They are used very well, especially to help those with learning difficulties to gain as much success against their targets as achieved by those who find learning easier.
Leadership and management
Since its previous inspection, the school has worked with a sense of purpose and commitment to improving the identified areas of weakness. The staff team, led by dedicated and capable senior leaders, has been very willing to accept advice and support from the local authority to bring about improvement. There is a strong determination that the rapid success in raising standards will be maintained. The capacity to bring this about is good. Whilst relatively new, the governing body has rebuilt good relationships with the school and is beginning to make a more effective contribution to its success as it develops a better understanding of its work. The school now checks and evaluates its performance well. It has proven itself to be effective in dealing with key areas of weakness as well as continuing to recognise its many strengths. The firm establishment of systems for tracking pupils' progress and setting challenging targets for improvement has brought success in English and mathematics. There is a clear understanding of how the information gained from these systems benefits teaching quality and pupils' learning. The school recognises that these processes now need to be developed across all subjects so that subject leaders have a greater understanding of how well pupils are doing and are able to identify what needs to be improved further.