The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This is an average sized primary school. The number of pupils eligible for free school meals is higher than average. Most pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds with the largest groups being of Black Caribbean or Black African heritage. The number of pupils for whom English is an additional language is lower than that found nationally and there are very few pupils at the early stages of learning English. The number of pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities is below average.
Overall effectiveness of the school
St Mark's provides a satisfactory education where pupils feel safe and secure within a broadly Christian ethos. The school works well with the local community and has especially strong links with the local church. Pupils contribute well to the life of the community through, for example, singing and dancing at local events and helping to run the summer fair.
Pupils enjoy the wide range of extra-curricular opportunities that the school provides. The take-up of after school sports clubs is high and this helps pupils develop healthy lifestyles. Behaviour is satisfactory in classrooms and around the school. Pupils say that bullying is rare. The emphasis on developing good cultural awareness, through a range of activities, ensures that pupils have a good understanding of their own and other cultures and as a result get on well together.
Pupils enter the school with knowledge and skills that are below those expected for their age. In particular, their social and language skills are often weak. They make good progress through the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 because teaching is good. However, pupils only make satisfactory progress in Key Stage 2 because of the satisfactory teaching they receive. By the time they leave school, at the end of Year 6, they achieve standards in English, mathematics and science which are broadly average.
Teaching is satisfactory overall and better for the younger pupils. Where teaching is good, teachers use assessment to match the work to the needs of individuals. As a result, teachers have appropriately high expectations of what the pupils can achieve. For example, in one successful English lesson, groups of pupils worked with different texts, including a football report, according to their reading ability. This resulted in all pupils being able to succeed. Where teaching is only satisfactory, teachers' questioning does not challenge pupils' thinking and teachers' assessments are not sufficiently accurate to ensure pupils are appropriately challenged in their work. The marking of work throughout the school is not consistently good enough to show pupils what the next steps in their learning should be.
The school rightly judges its effectiveness to be satisfactory. Staff turnover during the last two years has been high and this has slowed the school's improvement but the headteacher and the newly formed senior leadership team are committed to taking the school forward. They have identified appropriate areas for improvement, for example raising standards in Key Stage 2, and are using support from the local authority and consultants to help increase the amount of good teaching through the school. Governors do not adequately support or challenge the school because the mechanisms by which school improvement can be evaluated do not specify clear timeframes for monitoring by the governing body.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
The Foundation Stage gives pupils a good start to their education. They are well taught in a welcoming, spacious and well-equipped environment. They make good progress, learn to share, take turns and become more independent through a wide range of activities. The curriculum is based on a secure understanding of the needs of young children, and staff monitor progress carefully. The outdoor area provides opportunities for play, which the children enjoy, although the planning for this area is not sufficiently integrated to ensure that the indoor and outdoor activities are sufficiently linked and complement each other.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve teaching and learning by ensuring assessments are accurate and used to match work to the needs of individual pupils.
- Ensure that the marking of work gives pupils clear guidance about their next steps in learning.
- Ensure that plans for school improvement are manageable, set within realistic timeframes, monitored and then evaluated by both staff and governors.
A small proportion of the schools whose overall effectiveness is judged satisfactory but which have areas of underperformance will receive a monitoring visit by an Ofsted inspector before their next Section 5 inspection.
Achievement and standards
From their low starting points, pupils make good progress through the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. As a result, by the time they enter Year 3, they reach standards which are broadly average. In 2007, as a result of a focus on improving writing, pupils at the end of Key Stage 1 reached standards in this area which were above those achieved nationally.
Pupils make satisfactory progress through Key Stage 2 because of the satisfactory teaching they receive. Standards in English, science and mathematics have fluctuated over the last few years but are now broadly average.
The school's own assessment data indicates that the progress made by pupils through the school is satisfactory overall. This was confirmed by the lessons seen during the inspection and by work in pupils' books. Pupils with learning difficulties or disabilities make at least satisfactory and sometimes good progress because of the good support they receive.
Personal development and well-being
As a pupil said, 'The best thing about the school is the people, they really know how to communicate with children'. Pupils' attendance is good. They understand the Christian ethos of the school and learn to respect the values and beliefs of others. The school newspaper, which the pupils produce, is a lively and informative guide. It shows that pupils make a good contribution to the community through, for example, creating and running stalls at the summer fair, singing and dancing in community events and raising money for charities. The school council has real responsibility and was, for example, involved in the selection of the new deputy headteacher. Assemblies effectively promote thoughtful thinking from pupils and develop their spirituality. Pupils mostly behave appropriately in lessons and around the school. Pupils say that bullying is rare and that, when it does occur, teachers deal with it firmly. Through the good provision for PE and the extra-curricular opportunities for sport, pupils understand how to stay healthy.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The school rightly judges that teaching and learning are satisfactory overall. Teaching assistants are used well to support pupils of all abilities. In the best lessons, pupils understand what they are expected to achieve. Teachers have good subject knowledge and use resources well so that pupils work hard and make good progress. The pace of these lessons is good and behaviour is well managed because expectations are high. Opportunities are taken for pupils to work with partners and in small groups, and this results in all pupils being involved in their learning.
However, there are inconsistencies in the quality of teaching which slow the pace of learning. Where teaching is satisfactory, teachers' questioning fails to challenge pupils' thinking and pupils sometimes find the work too easy or too difficult because teacher assessment is not used to match work to the needs of individual pupils.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is satisfactory overall although revised planning in English and mathematics has not been in place long enough to raise pupils' achievement from satisfactory to good. The provision of extra-curricular activities is good and take up is high. Pupils have the opportunity to take part in a good range of sports, which helps them to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Cultural activities are good and contribute well to pupils' understanding of Britain as a diverse society. Visits to places of interest and the visitors to the school help to widen pupils' horizons and extend their experience.
Care, guidance and support
Pupils appreciate the care and support they receive. They feel confident that there are people to whom they could turn if in difficulties. Systems are in place to monitor how well pupils are doing, but these are not used well enough to ensure that work is well matched to individual needs. The marking of work is not giving pupils sufficient guidance about what they need to do in order to improve. Pupils who have learning difficulties or disabilities, or who are at an early stage of learning English, have their needs carefully identified and are provided with appropriate support. The school works well with other schools and agencies to support the learning and emotional needs of pupils. The school meets the current statutory requirements for safeguarding children and for health and safety.
Leadership and management
The effectiveness of the leadership and management of the school has been hindered during the last two years by the large turnover of staff. The headteacher has, however, worked effectively to ensure that newly appointed staff know and understand the school's ethos. This has resulted in the quality of teaching and learning remaining at least satisfactory. The school has a good understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and is receiving good support from the local authority to support its focus on raising standards. However, recent actions taken have not had sufficient time to result in raising the achievement of pupils in Key Stage 2.
Governors have an inadequate grasp of the school's strengths and weaknesses and this limits their ability to challenge or support the school effectively. The plans that the school have in place identify appropriate areas for improvement, but the lack of clarity and specific timeframes hinder the ability of staff and governors to effectively monitor and evaluate the progress that the school is making towards achieving its aims.