The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector.
Description of the school
The school is smaller than average. Most pupils come from advantaged homes. Attainment on entry varies but is typically above average. A very small proportion of pupils have free school meals. Fewer pupils than usual have learning difficulties and disabilities. A very small proportion of the pupils are from minority ethnic backgrounds and very few are at the early stages of learning English. The headteacher has been in post for just over a year and was previously the deputy. For a term prior to her appointment, she was acting headteacher.
Overall effectiveness of the school
The school provides a good education for its pupils. As one parent wrote 'since leaving the school, my child has been in the top sets in secondary school. I firmly believe that this is due to the good education she received at St Martin's School'. The headteacher and senior managers set a clear direction and have high expectations of the pupils. After a period of staffing instability some eighteen months ago, there is now a more settled teaching team and teaching and learning is good. Incisive monitoring of teaching and the strong commitment to professional development has brought improvement and greater consistency to learning.
Good self-evaluation has helped to target support where it is most needed. As a result, overall standards are well above average and achievement for the large majority of pupils is good. The more able pupils do not do as well, particularly in mathematics because teachers do not always challenge them to do as well as they might. For these pupils, achievement is satisfactory. Good provision in the Foundation Stage ensures that children make good progress and do well in all aspects of their development.
There is a high degree of consistency in the teaching across year groups. This ensures that pupils make good progress in lessons. Teaching is enthusiastic and a good pace to learning keeps interest levels high. The interesting and broad curriculum motivates the pupils to want to learn and the good extra-curricular activities offer a further dimension to learning. Pupils do not, however, have enough opportunities to use their literacy, numeracy and information and communication (ICT) skills to support learning in other subjects.
Pupils' personal development and well-being are outstanding. The happy and workmanlike atmosphere and excellent relationships at all levels, leads to outstanding behaviour and attitudes to work. By the time they leave school, pupils are mature and sensible individuals because of their excellent spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. They are prepared extremely well for their future economic well-being. Pupils know how to look after their bodies by taking exercise and eating healthily. Care, guidance and support are good. There is highly effective pastoral support and good academic guidance. Pupils know what they need to do to improve their learning because they have individual learning targets to measure their progress. The large majority of parents who responded are pleased with all aspects of the school's work.
The strong team ethic, effective leadership, good teaching, maintenance of high standards since the previous inspection and effective self-evaluation means that the school has good capacity for further improvement.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure that teachers consistently challenge more able pupils in mathematics to raise their achievement.
- Provide more opportunities for pupils to use their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills to support and extend learning in other subjects.
Achievement and standards
Achievement is good. Children make good progress in the Foundation Stage and most reach the goals expected for their age. Results in the 2005 national tests at the end of Year 2 were broadly average but standards have improved significantly in 2006. In the 2005 tests, standards at the end of Year 6 were above average in English, mathematics and science. In 2006, pupils did even better particularly in English and science. The more able pupils achieved well, although in mathematics significantly fewer reached the highest level and some did not achieve as well as they might. Whilst small numbers taking the tests can lead to fluctuations in overall standards, school targets were largely met and the school's own tracking data indicates a clear upward trend. Pupils with learning difficulties make good progress. This is because they receive effective additional support. Standards and pupils' achievements in ICT are good and have improved well since the previous inspection.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding. As a result, pupils respect the opinions and beliefs of others and know that their views will be valued. Behaviour is outstanding and pupils are polite and courteous. As one pupil said 'we laugh with people not at them'. Pupils enjoy school and this is reflected in their good attendance and punctuality. They say that they feel free from harassment, racism and bullying and speak highly of the support they receive. Pupils have high aspirations for their future and a strong work ethic. They have good literacy, numeracy and ICT skills and work well as part of a group. This provides them extremely well for their future economic well-being. The school council has a positive voice in school improvement and has, for example, introduced a 'worry box' where pupils can express any concerns they may have. Pupils understand the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and enjoy regular physical exercise.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teachers have high expectations of pupils' behaviour and work ethic and relationships are excellent. As a result, pupils know what is expected of them and respond appropriately. Teachers' enthusiasm and good use of resources makes learning fun and captures pupils' interest effectively. Planning is consistently good at all stages and assessment and tracking are used well to target support where it is needed most. This is helping ensure pupils make good progress in lessons and work builds successfully on what they already know. Despite recent improvements, the work given to the more able pupils in mathematics does not always provide consistent challenge. Teaching in the Foundation Stage provides a good balance between teacher directed and independent work and helps children make good progress. Throughout the school, a particular strength in the teaching is the use and support of classroom assistants. They know what pupils are expected to learn and provide written feedback to the teacher at the end of sessions. Pupils' individual targets in literacy and numeracy help them see how well they are doing and marking gives good guidance on how they might improve.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum helps pupils make good progress in their academic and personal development. The well planned curriculum for children in the Foundation Stage helps them develop well in all areas of learning. There are good examples of links between subjects that provide opportunities for pupils to use their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills to support learning. However, this is not consistently established. A good range of extra-curricular activities, including visits and visitors, give pupils good opportunities to work in teams and see how their community and the wider world works. This adds value to their economic well-being and enjoyment in learning. The needs of pupils with learning difficulties and the few from minority ethnic groups who are at the early stages of learning English are met well.
Care, guidance and support
There is a strong commitment to making the school a safe and caring place where the needs of all pupils are paramount. Pupils say that they are listened to and helped if they have a problem. Good individual education plans and additional support for pupils with learning difficulties help them to make good progress in realistic and achievable steps. There are good systems for child protection and requirements regarding risk assessments are met. All teachers pay good attention to health and safety aspects. There is good provision to teach pupils about smoking and substance abuse and pupils fully understand the dangers. Academic guidance for more able pupils including the few who have been identified as gifted or talented is a developing aspect of the school's work and is not yet firmly established.
Leadership and management
The headteacher, with strong support from all staff, pupils and governors, has successfully led the school through a period of staffing instability. They have arrested a dip in standards and restored a rising trend. The headteacher has high aspirations for the pupils and puts their needs first in all that she does. This is clearly reflected in the outstanding personal development of the pupils and the good care, guidance and support they receive. Over the past year or so, with support from the local authority, there has been significant improvement in the use of data analysis and tracking to raise standards and achievement. This has not been as successful for the more able pupils in mathematics as it has in other subjects.
The new deputy head and key subject managers play a full part in school improvement and know where strengths and areas for development are. The subject leaders are developing their roles well and speak highly of their involvement in the national primary leadership programme. This has given them the skills and knowledge to really get to grips with incisive and focused monitoring of teaching and learning. Standards in their subjects are rising as a result. The governors fulfil their statutory duties well and play a good part in planning a strategic direction for the school, for example, through their involvement in the good school improvement plan.