The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and four Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
St Matthew's is a larger than average school, serving predominantly the Roman Catholic communities of north east Manchester. Students come from an area that is relatively socially and economically disadvantaged. Over a third of students are eligible for free school meals, which is well above average. Over 90% of students are from a White British background. Several minority ethnic groups are represented in small numbers, but very few students have English as an additional language. The proportion of students from minority ethnic groups is gradually increasing. The proportion of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is in line with the national average, but the proportion with a statement of special educational needs is below average.
The school is undergoing a major rebuilding programme, due for completion in December 2008, to create new accommodation for nearly three quarters of the school. The school holds specialist status in technology.
Overall effectiveness of the school
St Matthew's is a satisfactory school, which is improving. It has a number of significant strengths, particularly in the care offered to its students. The strong and cohesive leadership team has helped to develop a good curriculum, which caters well for the needs of students. The broad choice of options in Key Stage 4 is a good example of how the school's specialist status in technology has enhanced students' opportunities. The good level of care and support helps pupils to feel safe at school. As one Year 11 student said, 'The school is like a giant family where everyone gets on and cares for each other.' The care of the most vulnerable students is particularly effective because of the outstanding way that the school works with outside agencies and provides well planned support programmes.
Standards are below average, although results in GCSE examinations have improved significantly over the last two years. Achievement is satisfactory. Overall, students make progress that is in line with that made by similar students in other schools. Students make inadequate progress in mathematics because standards of teaching vary too much. The school has recognised the need to improve standards in mathematics and additional resources allocated to the department have begun to have a positive impact on achievement.
Students' good personal development is demonstrated by the strong relationships that they enjoy with their teachers. Students generally behave well and are confident that when occasional misbehaviour occurs it is dealt with. Attendance is satisfactory. Although it is below average, it is in line with levels of attendance found at similar schools. School managers have introduced extensive and appropriate measures to improve attendance. These have had a positive impact on the majority of students, but there remains a small number with very low attendance. Students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. The caring and spiritual ethos of the school and good opportunities to become involved in a range of charitable work teach students to think of others and to show compassion. Although students' views are heard, the school council is not as active as it could be. Well planned opportunities to take responsibility, such as the 'Guardian Angels' scheme, enable the students to develop into mature and confident young people.
Teaching and learning are satisfactory and there is a good programme of staff development which is leading to improved teaching. Teachers show strengths in subject knowledge and class management, but often planning fails to take sufficient account of the range of abilities within the class. In many lessons students reflect how easy or difficult they found the work and how well they have progressed, but this is not consistent practice across the school. The quality of marking varies too much and, as a result, students do not always know how they can improve their work.
The experienced and effective governing body has a good understanding of the school's work whilst providing challenge and support for senior leaders. The efforts of all staff in managing the effects of the extensive rebuilding programme are particularly successful in maintaining a good and stable learning environment. The school provides satisfactory value for money. Recent improvements in GCSE results, curricular provision and teaching demonstrate good capacity for the school to improve further.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise achievement in mathematics.
- Improve teaching so that learning is good or better in more lessons.
- Improve the attendance of the small minority of students who do not attend regularly.
A small proportion of schools where overall effectiveness is judged to be 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
Standards are below average and students' achievement is satisfactory. On entry to the school, students' attainment is in line with national expectations for their age. In 2007, overall attainment in the Key Stage 3 national tests in English, mathematics and science was below average. The proportion of students gaining more than five good GCSEs including both English and mathematics was 38%, which was below the national average. This figure represented a large improvement on the results in the previous two years. Assessment information provided by the school and inspection evidence confirm that all groups of students, including those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, are now making at least satisfactory progress. Students make inadequate progress in mathematics. In Key Stage 3, students make good progress in English. Students meet targets that provide a satisfactory level of challenge, and some meet more demanding targets.
Personal development and well-being
Relationships are strong and students, including those who are vulnerable, report that there is no bullying or racism. For example, one student commented that, 'It doesn't matter where you are from because you are welcome'. Although a small minority of parents are concerned about students' behaviour, inspectors found that behaviour was good. Students enjoy participating in sport and understand the importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle. They demonstrate attitudes, habits and skills that will stand them in good stead when they enter the workplace; they work well in teams and make full use of the available information and communication technology. Students generally respond well to the variety of strategies which the school has put in place to improve their attendance, but the attendance of a small minority of students remains too low. Most students enjoy school and join in activities enthusiastically. Students try hard in lessons and take care with the presentation of their work.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are satisfactory. Teachers' good subject knowledge helps them to prepare interesting activities that motivate students, and their skilful questioning is used well to extend students' knowledge and skills. Where lessons are well paced and good use is made of new technology, learning moves forward rapidly. Harmonious relationships and good management of students ensure that behaviour is good and learning is not interrupted. In the best lessons work is matched precisely to individuals' abilities and so students work enthusiastically. However, on some occasions work does not take sufficient account of individual needs and as a result some students' learning slows. The quality of marking is variable. Where marking is strong, comments are helpful and constructive and clearly pinpoint what students need to do to improve. Teachers accept regular monitoring from managers as integral to their work. They speak highly of the extensive opportunities that are provided to develop their skills and career aspirations further. They take full advantage of these opportunities and there is clear evidence that the quality of teaching is improving.
Curriculum and other activities
The broad and balanced curriculum is well matched to students' needs and meets statutory requirements. In Key Stage 3, students benefit from studying courses in drama and combined humanities. Able students study a second modern foreign language or Latin. In Key Stage 4, the curriculum caters effectively for a wide range of interests and aspirations. The school's specialist status has helped to increase significantly the number of courses that lead to vocational qualifications and to offer a wide range of technology options. Excellent collaborative arrangements through the Manchester Catholic Education Partnership and other providers have further increased the choices available. For example, by providing individual programmes involving work-based learning, the school has helped the small number of students involved to maintain positive attitudes to education. The vast majority of students move into further education or training at the end of Year 11. The school offers a rich programme of extra-curricular activities, arranged to support both leisure and learning. Students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities benefit from good additional provision such as the literacy booster groups. However, the targets on these students' individual plans are not sufficiently clear, and as a result not all teachers adapt work consistently to meet individual needs.
Care, guidance and support
The quality of care, guidance and support provided for students is good overall. Outstanding links with the church community and with outside agencies ensure that particularly vulnerable students, including those who are looked-after, are given extremely good support. Students speak very positively about the staff and feel that there are many people that they can turn to if they have a problem. Child protection requirements and health and safety procedures are securely established and understood by staff. Academic guidance is satisfactory. Students know what their targets are but are sometimes unsure of exactly what they have to do to reach them. Good transition procedures enable Year 7 students to settle well and Year 11 leavers to move confidently into sixth form provision or employment. Effective strategies, such as those to celebrate good attendance and the 'Escalation Policy' for weak attenders, have reduced the amount of student absence. The updated behavioural management procedures have been effective in reducing the number of exclusions.
Leadership and management
The headteacher leads the school well. His clear vision for improved standards and achievement is shared by all. The senior leadership team and middle managers successfully support the headteacher with a wide-ranging agenda for improvement which is firmly rooted in an accurate evaluation of the school's strengths and areas for development. Personalised programmes of study in Key Stage 4 and the extensive use of multi-agency support illustrate the school's strong commitment to equal opportunities for all students. Strategies to improve attendance and boost achievement of students across the school are beginning to have an impact. Pastoral support for students is well organised and is at the forefront of everything the school does. Financial management is sound. In very challenging circumstances managers have coped well with the financial demands of preparing to move to new accommodation. Improvements to the school since the last inspection are satisfactory.
The school is now benefiting from a rigorous system for monitoring and evaluating data so that any underachievement is quickly identified. Managers monitor teaching and learning accurately and provide convincing evidence that the proportion of good or better lessons is increasing. Teaching staff benefit from performance management procedures and the support that goes with them. As well as broadening opportunities for students, the school's specialist status has helped to improve resources across the school.