The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This large inner city school serves an area of diverse social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. The proportion of pupils who are entitled to free school meals is slightly below average. A growing number of pupils come from minority ethnic groups. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below average. There has been a high turn over of staff in the last two years. The school has an Activemark Award.
Overall effectiveness of the school
St Patrick's is a satisfactory school with strengths in the personal development and well-being of pupils. From low starting points, pupils make satisfactory progress in the Foundation Stage and in Key Stage 1. Standards at the end of Year 2 are just below the national average in writing and mathematics and slightly above in reading. Over time, standards at the end of Key Stage 2 have been consistently below national averages in English and mathematics and declined further in 2007 when they were well below. However, there is a residue of historic underachievement in the school. Recent initiatives have halted the decline. Pupils' achievement is now satisfactory as a result of improvements in the way the school monitors pupils' progress and uses this information to better effect in teaching. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities make satisfactory progress from their starting points because of the appropriate support they receive.
Parents support the school and value the recent updates to the building, improvements in pupils' behaviour and regular information about their children's schooling. They believe 'St Patrick's is rising up.' Some parents expressed a concern about systems for identifying their children's special needs and delays in accessing support. The inspection found that all proper procedures are in place; some delays are outside the school's control.
Behaviour is good. Pupils show consideration towards each other and respect to adults. They say they are happy at school and everyone works together well. Older pupils have many roles and responsibilities and make a significant contribution to school life. Pupils say they enjoy their lessons and feel safe and well cared for, they are confident they will receive help if they need it. Personal development and well-being are good.
Teaching and learning are satisfactory. There are good examples of teaching and learning in the school but a lack of consistency slows down pupils' progress. Recent innovations to make the satisfactory curriculum more relevant and interesting to the pupils are effective but are not yet in use fully throughout the school.
The pastoral care pupils receive is very good and contributes significantly to good personal development. There is a very caring ethos. Academic guidance is less well developed; pupils are not always clear what they need to do to improve their work and what their targets are for the next step of learning. Care, guidance and support are satisfactory.
The leadership style is inclusive and supportive and has brought the school through a difficult time. The newly established leadership team has a refreshed focus on raising standards and has already made a positive start. Initiatives are, however, in the early stages of implementation and the impact is not yet fully secure. Leadership and management are satisfactory and there is a satisfactory capacity to improve.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
When children start school in the Nursery their skills are well below that typically expected in all areas. Communication, language and literacy, mathematical development and knowledge and understanding of the world are particularly weak. Children experience a calm and happy start to their school life and make satisfactory progress through the Foundation Stage. Huge improvements in the fabric of the building and in resources have ensured that children have good provision to learn through play both inside and outside of the classrooms. Staff use the new space well to ensure that all children are active learners. In this caring and stimulating learning environment children learn to cooperate with one another and trust the adults who work with them. Children's progress is monitored carefully but assessment is insufficiently rigorous and not integral to day-to-day activities.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise standards in mathematics and English, notably in writing.
- Use assessment data more rigorously to track pupils' progress and set pupils challenging targets for the next steps of learning.
- Ensure that all teaching and learning is consistently good or better.
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
At Key Stage 1, pupils achieve satisfactorily and reach standards at the end of Year 2 that are just below the national average in writing and mathematics, slightly stronger in reading. Progress through Key Stage 2 is now satisfactory but has been inadequate in the recent past. Standards are well below the national average in English and mathematics and below average in science at the end of Key Stage 2. The school has a backlog of underachievement to address. Boys are further behind than girls and writing is a weakness throughout the school. More consistent monitoring of year-on-year progress is now giving the school the information it needs to ensure that all pupils are on track to fulfil their potential, and help the school direct its resources where they are most needed. Progress seen in lessons shows an upturn and achievement in each year group is now satisfactory.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils say they enjoy school. This is reflected in their improving attendance and punctuality. They say they feel safe knowing that 'behaviour is much better than it used to be'. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural awareness are particularly strong; pupils from a variety of ethnic backgrounds work and play together harmoniously. Pupils develop a good understanding of what they need to do to stay safe and keep healthy. They enjoy their roles and responsibilities and the school council is actively involved in decision making. There are good links with the local community and the church. Supporting the work of local and international charities helps pupils develop a wider knowledge of the world and the part they can play. In many respects pupils are well prepared for life beyond school, however, their underdeveloped literacy and numeracy skills leave them less well prepared for the next stage of education and future economic well-being.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Satisfactory teaching and learning are leading to satisfactory progress. Although a number of good lessons were observed during the inspection there is not yet a consistently good pattern. A strength of teaching and learning is the good relationships and trust between staff and pupils. Support staff make effective contributions to lessons particularly in their support for the less able pupils. In some lessons pupils have insufficient opportunities to learn independently and are not challenged sufficiently and, as a consequence, progress is less than it could be. Marking celebrates pupils' efforts but does not always help pupils know how they could do better. An overuse of worksheets means that pupils do not practise their writing skills in subjects other than English.
Curriculum and other activities
The school is currently introducing a more creative curriculum, which makes more meaningful links across different subjects. Themed events such as the 'One World' week, anti-bullying weeks and book weeks enrich the curriculum, as do performances from visiting groups such as a Caribbean steel band and Indian dancers. A new programme of personal and social education is helping pupils understand how to stay safe and healthy and how to relate to others in a friendly manner. Parents and pupils value the range of out-of-school clubs together with the many opportunities to compete with other schools in sporting tournaments. The new curriculum, although improving, is in its infancy and not fully effective throughout the school.
Care, guidance and support
Effective pastoral care underpins everything the school does and reflects the school's Catholic values. Secure systems for safeguarding pupils are in place and there is a rigorous approach to health and safety procedures. Pastoral care is very good for all pupils and particularly effective for vulnerable pupils, who are given individual mentoring support. This has a positive impact on their progress and attitudes to school. Parents and pupils value the care given to their children. Parents say they are welcomed into school and the school is a welcoming place for children. Academic guidance is at an early stage. Although systems are in place they are not quite strong enough to provide regular information on progress at key points in the academic year, nor do they translate into effective and challenging targets for all pupils.
Leadership and management
The impact of leadership can be seen in improvements in pupils' behaviour. Consultation has led to well planned policies and the consistent application of policy and procedures have resulted in a remarkable turn around noted by parents and pupils. The learning environment has also greatly improved. St Patrick's is a calm, pleasant learning environment and a caring school. The new leadership team, which includes staff representing all key stages, has a clear focus on raising standards and achievement. Governors are supportive, well informed and share the school's determination to raise standards. Self-evaluation is firmly based on consultation and the school knows its strengths and what it needs to improve. The impact of leadership on achievement and standards is less advanced, with some initiatives in their infancy. Leadership and management are, therefore, satisfactory.