The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
St Joseph's Catholic primary school is a large school. It draws its pupils from a wider than usual socio-economic range and catchment area because of its religious status. A broadly average proportion of pupils have learning difficulties and/or disabilities or a statement of special educational need. Fewer pupils than usual come from minority ethnic backgrounds. Of these, an average proportion of pupils are at an early stage of learning English.
Overall effectiveness of the school
St Joseph's is a good school. It provides good value for money and has improved well since the last inspection. Pupils enjoy school, their behaviour is outstanding and they know how to stay fit and healthy. The overwhelming majority of parents support this view, one commenting: 'The school encapsulates everything that we as parents wish for.' The good care, guidance and support that pupils receive from school results in their good personal development and well-being, including good spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Pupils achieve well but this varies between year groups. Children make satisfactory progress in the Foundation Stage but progress is better in the Nursery than in Reception because children's learning activities, particularly outdoors, are better suited to their age and maturity. In Key Stage 1, pupils make satisfactory progress in learning to read and write and good progress in mathematics. By Year 2 standards are average in reading and writing and above average in mathematics. Some of the most capable pupils in Key Stage 1 do not achieve as well as they could in writing because the work set for them is no more challenging than it is for other pupils. Progress picks up to good in Key Stage 2 and accelerates rapidly in Years 5 and 6. This is where teachers use assessment information best to design challenging work for all pupils. By Year 6 standards are well above average in English, mathematics and science. Good overall teaching and the excellent, supportive relationships between all members of the school community provide a good, calm climate for learning. Pupils' above average attendance, their punctuality, good attitudes to work and the well above average standards they attain equip them extremely well for their future.
The curriculum is satisfactory rather than good, as the school suggests. This is because provision in the Foundation Stage is unequal between Reception and Nursery and, although the curriculum in Years 1 to 6 is broad it lacks balance between subjects. Inspectors agree with the pupils who said they would like to do more art and music. Leaders recognise this. Pupils benefit from a good range of sporting activities out of school hours to promote their teamwork and fitness. They have a satisfactory range of visits and visitors to enrich their learning. Within the curriculum, there is excellent provision for pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. They are provided with an extremely wide range of intervention programmes to cater for their individual learning needs. Teaching assistants are highly competent and very well trained to deliver and measure the success of these programmes. As a result, all pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities make good progress overall. Some make excellent progress and no longer need extra support. Pupils at an early stage of learning English also access some of these programmes to improve their language skills. They too make good progress. The school has good partnerships with external agencies to promote good progress, particularly for these groups of pupils.
Good leadership and management have resulted in significant success in raising standards. Leaders have gathered an excellent range of accurate assessment data, which staff, particularly in Key Stage 2, use effectively to raise pupils' achievement. However, the school development plan does not focus sharply enough on how progress is measured. Leaders, including governors, have made largely accurate evaluations of the school's work, although pupils' care, guidance and support is good rather than outstanding because pupils in Years 1 and 2 do not receive sufficient guidance on how to improve their writing. The standards that pupils reach by Year 6, their good achievement and leaders' willingness to improve further all demonstrate the school's good capacity to improve.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise standards in writing in Key Stage 1, particularly for the most capable pupils.
- Improve the curriculum in order to provide children in the Reception year with better learning opportunities and pupils in Key Stages 1 and 2 with more opportunities to develop their skills in art and music.
- Within the school development plan, define how progress in raising standards is measured throughout the school in order to give leaders a clear view of the success achieved in making improvements.
Achievement and standards
Achievement is good. Children enter Nursery with skills that are broadly average for their age. They rapidly improve their personal and social skills as they learn to share resources and play together. They have a good start in learning new skills in mathematics, reading and writing, although they progress better in the Nursery class than in Reception. This is because the curriculum is planned better to suit their age and levels of maturity. Standards in writing in Key Stage 1, though satisfactory, are not as high as in mathematics, because the curriculum opportunities for this are too restricted, especially for the more capable pupils. By Year 6 standards are well above average. Pupils achieve well in mathematics throughout the school because teachers' planning is good and their expectations of pupils' capabilities are high. In Year 6, at least a third of pupils have an excellent understanding of the links between fractions, decimals and percentages. Prompt and effective action improves the performance of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and those at an early stage of speaking English. Targets set for pupils tell them what they have to do to improve further. These are most effective in Key Stage 2 because teachers use assessment information more accurately to set appropriately challenging work. The school analyses pupils' performance rigorously and has assessment data to show that pupils are on track to meet the demanding targets set for them in 2007 and 2008.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils are proud of their school. They say: 'It rocks.' They speak positively about the good relationships with adults and among pupils. They enjoy school, as shown by their above average attendance. Their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. Pupils are courteous and work well in small groups and pairs. Pupils on the school council have gained a good understanding of their roles and older pupils really enjoy helping to care for younger ones, for example on the playgrounds. As one younger pupil said, 'If you sit down lonely, then someone comes to help you out.' Pupils raise considerable amounts of money for charities, leading to their appreciation of other people's problems, and they develop respect for people different from themselves. They gain a satisfactory appreciation for life in a more diverse culture through links such as those with the Chinese and African-Caribbean communities. Pupils know about the importance of having a healthy diet which includes fruit and water, and the benefits of regular exercise. They appreciate the tasty, healthy school meals.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good overall with a strength in mathematics, but there are variations in the quality of teaching within the school, particularly in writing. There are examples of outstanding teaching and learning in Years 4, 5 and 6. Here pupils are mixed in sets to learn mathematics and English. The work planned for them catches their interest and exactly meets their learning needs, resulting in accelerated learning. However, in some classes, too many pupils complete the same writing tasks, and assessments are not used well to plan work for different groups of pupils. As a result, particularly in Key Stage 1, progress for the more capable pupils slips to satisfactory. Teaching assistants are well qualified and work closely alongside teachers. They contribute very effectively to pupils' learning, particularly for those pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Pupils appreciate being allowed to work in small groups or in pairs to solve their problems because they say that this helps them learn.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum meets statutory requirements. It is broad but not very well balanced because pupils, even in Reception, spend too much time on mathematics and English. Some of the writing opportunities offered to children in Reception and Key Stage 1 are too ordinary to enthuse them. The Nursery curriculum is good, with strong outdoor provision. Children learn to play and share well together and adults provide plenty of opportunities to develop pupils' independence. Provision for information and communication technology is satisfactory; pupils are beginning to use a range of educational programs with confidence and independence. The school has rightly identified the need to sharpen up the focus on writing and music in order to make the curriculum more interesting, and older pupils say they would like to do more art and music, and have more group work in science. Pupils reach high standards in science and undertake several investigations, but the curriculum in art and music is very basic. Provision for sport is enhanced well by specialist teaching. A satisfactory range of visits to museums, and places of historic interest and the local environment help to bring history and geography more alive for pupils.
Care, guidance and support
The school cares for its pupils extremely well. All staff are committed to pupils' well-being and the positive atmosphere across school enables all pupils to feel valued. Procedures to help ensure that pupils are safeguarded are rigorous. Teaching assistants are deployed very effectively to support pupils' learning needs, and as a result, those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities play a full part in school life and make at least good, and sometimes excellent, progress. Pupils' guidance on how to improve further is satisfactory. A new marking system has been put into place to inform pupils on what they do well and how they could improve. This new system is not yet firmly embedded throughout the school. Teachers sometimes make corrections which pupils do nothing about. There are very good procedures to track how well pupils are learning and how much progress they make each year. Where this information is used well to guide pupils' learning, their progress accelerates.
Leadership and management
The quality of leadership and management is good. One pupil said: 'The headteacher makes us happy. He has that presence around the school.' Good leadership has led to good achievement, good personal development and effective care, guidance and support. Almost all parents are fully supportive of the school. Leaders share a clear vision for school development that focuses on the benefits for pupils. They gather and analyse accurate data about pupils' standards and progress which are used to set future targets for the years ahead. Leaders, including governors, know the main strengths and weaknesses of the school. They know that the curriculum needs to be richer and that achievement in writing could improve for some of the most capable pupils. The school's development plan clearly identifies these priorities for development but how the school measures its success in achieving these aims is unspecified. This limits governors' ability to hold the school to account. Senior staff regularly look at pupils' books to see how they are doing and use the analyses of tests to find out which aspects of pupils' learning need a boost. However, the involvement of senior staff in monitoring classroom practice is only at an early stage.