The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This is a large primary school which has grown from one form entry to two over the last seven years. This year, for the first time, there are 14 classes and a stable staff. St Luke's is oversubscribed. The proportion of pupils from ethnic minority groups is below the national average but above that of the local authority (LA) and rising. The school is on a split site with separate buildings for infants and juniors about a five minute walk apart. Children's attainment and experience on joining Reception represent a wide range but are broadly what are expected for this age group.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school that takes good care of pupils and staff, and provides a good standard of education. Success is very securely founded on much improved, and now outstanding, provision in Reception where children make rapid progress and standards are above what are normally expected. Parents have overwhelmingly positive views. 'A fabulous school, taking care of everyone's needs', and, 'We are very pleased that our child goes to this school!' are typical comments.
Although provision is lacking in terms of opportunities to promote pupils' multicultural awareness, St Luke's successfully encourages pupils' personal as well as academic development. There are outstanding features in moral and social development. The school's strong Christian ethos sets the tone for pupils' good spiritual development, good behaviour and positive attitudes. In this happy and calm environment, it is no surprise that attendance is above average.
Following much staff training, assessment is being used very effectively to raise standards and gauge progress. Challenging targets are set for individuals and the school as a whole. As a result, pupils' achievement is good overall, with good progress in nearly all aspects. Although some elements of writing (particularly for boys) have been pin pointed for improvement by the school, standards are above average, as they are in reading and mathematics at the end of Year 2. English and science are also above average at the end of Year 6. Standards in mathematics are improving but are currently average. The underachievement of some pupils in the subject in recent years has been arrested, but there is still work to do to ensure that pupils perform as well as in English and science.
Teaching is good and the curriculum is well planned. This has positive effects on learning. Support for those who are gifted and talented is good and outstanding for pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. There is excellent inclusion of all pupils in all activities, most notably those whose first language is not English.
Leadership and management are good and the school has clear direction. Staff, despite working in two separate buildings, make a good team. Governance is good. Accurate self-evaluation means that managers have a clear view of what the school is good at and what must be improved. The successful track record of improvements confirms that the school has a good capacity to develop further.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Substantial improvement to leadership, teaching, planning, assessment and resourcing for the Foundation Stage has resulted in children making rapid progress and achieving very well. There is an excellent balance between learning through play and more formal activities, including those chosen by the children and those directed by staff. By the time they join Year 1, virtually all children reach what is expected of this age group and many exceed the nationally agreed learning goals. Support for all children is outstanding with excellent inclusion of all regardless of their ability and background. Parents are particularly pleased. 'A wonderful school. I am completely happy with the start to my child's education.' Children do especially well in personal and emotional development. Learning to listen, share and take turns forms a fine basis for working and playing together. Because learning is so carefully planned, children are emerging as readers and writers, learning how to count and add up, and are discovering what their bodies are capable of. Children show independence and are confident to explain what they are doing. Topic work is used especially well to encourage children to find out about the world about them. It is a good vehicle for creative activities and, at the same time, ensures learning is fun.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure that pupils achieve as well at the end of Year 6 in mathematics as they do in English and science.
- Improve the quality of pupils' (especially boys') writing at the end of Year 2.
- Raise pupils' awareness of life in Britain as a multicultural society.
Achievement and standards
Pupils' achievement is good overall, building on strong progress made in Reception. Standards in reading, writing and mathematics are above average at the end of Year 2 and have been so for a period of years. The quality of writing for some pupils, most notably boys, still needs some attention in terms of spelling, content and handwriting. This has been identified by the school and features as part of development planning. During a period of staff disruption in the past the value the school added to pupils' performance by the end of Year 6 declined. In 2005, the school missed its targets for mathematics and some pupils underachieved. In 2006 this trend was arrested. Inspectors' findings and the school's plausible predictions for 2008 indicate sustained improvement. Standards are currently above average in English and science, with pupils of all abilities making good progress. In mathematics, standards are average rather than good because pupils' mental skills and problem solving are less secure than in other aspects. The school has begun to address this with the effect that progress in mathematics, as seen in lessons and pupils' work, is now good.
Personal development and well-being
Above average attendance and good personal development are securely rooted in the excellent start children get in Reception. Throughout the school, relationships are good. Pupils behave well, are considerate to others, and enthusiastic about their work. 'Love it here!' was one boy's comment that sums up the popular view. Pupils respond very well to the school's Christian ideals and the staff's efforts to make work interesting and enjoyable. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good with outstanding features in pupils' awareness of right and wrong and the capacity to work with other people. Pupils' awareness of life in Britain as a multicultural society is below what is expected, but cultural development is satisfactory overall.
Pupils know how to stay safe and, despite some concerns about big ball games in the infant playground, feel safe in school. They have a clear sense of how to keep fit and are really proud of the Healthy School award. Pupils make a good contribution to the school as a community, for example as councillors and playground monitors, and to the local and wider community through fund raising. Good basic skills in literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology prepare pupils well for everyday life.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Pupils learn well because teaching is good. Teaching ranges from some outstanding lessons to a few with less than satisfactory elements. Work is effectively planned for different ability levels in each class and is usually presented in ways which pupils find enjoyable. Teachers make learning objectives clear at the start of lessons and refer back to them at the end. As a result, pupils make good progress. Relationships on all levels are good. Teachers and their assistants make a good team. They know pupils and their needs well. Questioning techniques are good. Staff prompt pupils to think before answering. It is clear that they have high expectations of pupils' work and behaviour. This works particularly well for pupils who are gifted and talented and who regularly achieve well above average levels. Staff support pupils of all abilities well and are extremely good at making sure pupils whose first language is not English are fully involved in lessons. Teachers' marking is effectively linked to pupils' individual targets and successful in showing everyone how to make improvements.
Aspects of teaching that are less successful include lessons where activities are too long, sessions where the pace is too slow and where pupils are not challenged enough. There is evidence that in the past this has been the case in mathematics but improvements are well in hand.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is well planned to make learning interesting. With the exception of providing sufficient opportunities to encourage pupils' multicultural awareness, it meets pupils' needs effectively. Due attention is paid to pupils' personal, social and health education. Recent developments in mathematics are having a positive impact but are yet to have full effect. However, there is a strong emphasis on developing pupils' key skills in literacy and numeracy which has been recognised with the Basic Skills Quality Mark. The curriculum is regularly reviewed and there is evidence that recent changes, for example in science, have resulted in pupils' better understanding of experimental and investigative aspects. The award of the Artsmark in 2007 reflects the whole school emphasis on creative arts.
The curriculum is successfully enriched by strong links with the church and a good variety of extra-curricular activities. These include French, music, sport, and a range of visitors, visits and residential opportunities.
Care, guidance and support
Pupils of all ages and abilities are well cared for. The school is meticulous about safety checks of staff, equipment and the two sites. However, pupils feel a review of playtime arrangements would be a good idea. There is excellent provision to support those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Links with parents on all levels are good and result in an effective partnership to the benefit of all children.
Academic guidance is much improved and is now a strength of the school. Assessments are used very effectively to measure standards, judge progress, and set targets for pupils, staff and the school. This process is at the heart of the improvement in pupils' achievement begun last year and forms a very secure basis for the future.
Leadership and management
The school's leadership and management are good. The headteacher and deputy headteacher give a strong lead. They have successfully created a staffing structure which encourages teachers to contribute to the priorities of the school development plan. Senior teachers and subject leaders set a good example and support staff effectively. Together, staff and governors manage the school well. They make a good team which works well together despite the potential problems of the split site.
Governance is good and has improved since the last report. Well informed governors make a positive contribution by managing the budget and being supportive. They play an active part in ensuring the school makes use of challenging targets. They monitor the success of decisions taken, which forms an important part of the school's self-evaluation. As a result, managers have an accurate view of the school's strengths and areas for development. Leadership and management are not judged better than good because many of the processes now established are relatively recent. They have yet to have sufficient impact on pupils' multicultural development and on achievement in mathematics. However, the school's track record of improvement throughout a period of considerable change is good. This, together with systems already in place, is a clear indicator of good capacity for further development.