The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The school is a little smaller than most primary schools. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is below average as is the proportion of pupils from minority ethnic groups. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below average. The number of pupils joining the school at times other than in the Reception class is above average.
Overall effectiveness of the school
St Paul's Church of England Aided Primary School is a satisfactory school where achievement is satisfactory and standards are average. Children start the Reception class with standards that are similar to national expectations. They make satisfactory progress through the Reception class but precise and regular checks are not always made on children's progress throughout the year. Pupils make satisfactory progress through the school and by the time pupils reach the end of Year 6 standards in English and science are similar to the national average. Pupils make good progress in mathematics, particularly in Key Stage 2, and reach above average standards. Teaching and learning are satisfactory. Teachers usually have high expectations of the more able and average ability pupils but work is not always well matched to the needs of the less able pupils and this holds back their achievement. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities make satisfactory progress and the school works effectively with external agencies to make sure their needs are met. The rich and exciting curriculum and good pastoral care underpin the pupils' good personal development. There are many interesting things to do which capture the pupils' imaginations. The school's emphasis on investigation and problem solving has evolved through its work on provision for gifted and talented pupils at both local and national levels and is helping to develop enquiring minds in all pupils of all abilities. Although the curriculum is good overall, it is only satisfactory in the Foundation Stage because children do not have enough opportunities to use their own initiative and learn through purposeful play and not enough use is made of the outdoors.
Pupils from different cultural and social backgrounds get on very well together. They say, 'We love coming to school; all our friends are here.' Their obvious enjoyment of school is reflected in the above average attendance rates and good standards of behaviour. Parents are generally satisfied with the quality of education provided by the school and typically talk about the 'friendly and helpful' staff. The school gives a high priority to promoting pupils' well-being and as a result pupils have a good knowledge of how to keep healthy and feel safe. Pupils are proud of their school community and are keen to contribute through their roles as school councillors or playground leaders, which they take very seriously indeed. They have plentiful opportunities to contribute to the wider community particularly through the activities of the choir and brass group.
Satisfactory leadership and management have resulted in improving standards, particularly in mathematics. The school is involved with many worthwhile initiatives but these are not always monitored or evaluated with sufficient rigour to ensure they are uniformly implemented and have the fullest impact on achievement and standards. Some aspects of the school's self-evaluation are too positive because judgements are not based on the rigorous monitoring of teaching and learning linked to a thorough analysis of the extensive data available. This clouds the school's perception of the big picture, as does the lack of reliable information about pupils' standards when they leave the Reception class. Nevertheless, the school has made big strides in improving standards and achievement in mathematics and satisfactory improvements to standards in science. This demonstrates the school's satisfactory capacity for further improvement.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Although children's accomplishments on entry can vary from year to year they are usually similar to national expectations when they enter Reception. However, their skills in communication, language and literacy are sometimes below average. This has been recognised and an effective programme helps children to link letters and sounds. Children make satisfactory progress in the Reception class because of satisfactory teaching combined with a satisfactory curriculum. Relationships between adults and children are good with lots of praise for children. Children's behaviour is generally good but some children can find it difficult to share. Many activities are supported by adults and they work well to expand children's vocabulary and develop their thinking skills. However, there is not always the correct balance between adult-led and child-initiated learning and children do not always have sufficient opportunities to make purposeful choices. The outdoors is not always used to full effect to develop children's skills in all areas of learning. Assessment is used effectively to group children by ability but is not always used to measure accurately the rate of progress of individual children. Information about children's standards when they leave the Reception class are not always reliable because assessment systems are not rigorous enough.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve the school's analysis of data and monitoring of teaching and learning so that evaluation focuses rigorously on the impact of provision on standards and achievement.
- Provide more opportunities for child-led activities and purposeful play in the Reception class, including making more effective use of the outdoors.
- Ensure that regular checks are made on children's progress in the Reception class and that assessments are precise and result in accurate information about children's attainment when they leave the Reception class.
- Make sure that work is always closely matched to the needs of all pupils, including the lower ability pupils.
Achievement and standards
Children leave the Foundation Stage with attainment that is broadly typical. Standards at the end of Key Stage 1 have often been above average but dipped in 2007 to average. Currently, standards in Key Stage 1 are above average particularly in reading and writing and pupils have made good progress despite a significant number of pupils joining the school late. Pupils in Key Stage 2 make satisfactory progress. The school has worked hard to improve standards and achievement in both mathematics and science. Pupils now make good progress in mathematics and standards are currently above average at the end of Year 6. Standards have improved to average in science from a low base and achievement in science is now satisfactory. Standards in English have not improved at the same rate and achievement in English is satisfactory. The school is aware that progress in writing is inconsistent, with variations in the rates of progress in different year groups.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils have good attitudes towards their school work and want to succeed. Their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. They much enjoy practical and creative activities where they can really get involved but they can lose focus when they have to listen to the teacher for lengthy periods. Pupils are keen to keep fit and healthy and know well how to keep safe. They take home with them the ideas generated at school. Pupils make a good contribution to the community, understanding how important it is to look after the environment. Play leaders are very popular and help create a good atmosphere in the playground. Their contribution is valued by other pupils. Pupils are well prepared for their futures because they develop very positive attitudes, learn to cooperate, work well in teams and they have good opportunities at school to learn about managing money.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The teaching has some strengths but also weaker elements that hold back the progress of the pupils. Relationships between pupils and teachers are very good indeed. Pupils' contributions are always valued and this gives them confidence. Behaviour is managed very effectively, minimising disruptions in class. Good use of interactive whiteboards and a good variety of other resources are used well to make lessons more interesting and support learning. Some teachers often talk for too long at the start of lessons. This causes some pupils to lose interest and also limits opportunities for pupils to work independently and reinforce their learning. Teachers usually offer challenging work to higher and middle attaining pupils but work is not accurately matched to the needs of lower attaining pupils, which limits their progress.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is pivotal in supporting the pupils' good personal development. Very good provision for personal, social and health education ensures that pupils know how to keep healthy and safe. The curriculum for mathematics has been improved through a greater focus on developing pupils' mental arithmetic and problem solving skills and this has helped to raise standards. Provision for science has also been recently improved and there are now more opportunities for investigation which have enthused the pupils but have not yet had time to impact fully on standards. The rich and exciting variety of activities and visits are used well to bring learning alive in the classroom and good links between subjects make learning more relevant. The pupils appreciate the wide range of clubs, including those for sport and music. Although the curriculum is very good for pupils in Years 1 to 6, it is only satisfactory in the Reception class because of the narrow opportunities for child-initiated learning and limited use of the outdoors.
Care, guidance and support
The school provides good pastoral care for pupils but has weaknesses in the quality of academic guidance. The good standard of care makes a significant contribution to pupils' personal development and their enjoyment of school. Staff are caring and know pupils' personal needs well. Good links with external agencies help to ensure that vulnerable pupils are well supported. Child protection procedures and risk assessments are in place. Many parents were concerned about the behaviour of a minority of pupils particularly in lower Key Stage 2. The school has worked successfully with outside agencies to improve the behaviour of some of its most challenging pupils. A minority of parents have expressed concerns about bullying. The school does take their concerns seriously but does not always document the actions it has taken.
The quality of academic guidance is inconsistent. The quality of marking varies from teacher to teacher. Whilst some teachers tell pupils clearly how to improve their work, the guidance provided by some teachers is brief. The use of academic targets is also inconsistent. Some teachers encourage pupils to mark and assess their own work but this is not always as rigorous as it could be.
Leadership and management
Leaders, including governors, have developed some stronger features of the school but there are weaknesses in their monitoring of its performance. They have ensured that pupils have access to a lively curriculum and good pastoral care that ensures pupils enjoy school and have good personal development. The school has successfully tackled weaknesses in standards in mathematics and science. In particular, the effective leadership and management of mathematics has accelerated pupils' progress and resulted in much improved standards. The school has a satisfactory view of its overarching strengths and weaknesses but deficiencies in the school's arrangements for monitoring and evaluating its work contribute to its over-positive self-evaluation in some areas. Questions have not been raised about inconsistencies in assessment of children's standards on entry into Year 1. The school has extensive data about pupils' achievement and standards in Key Stage 1 and 2 but this is not always used effectively as a management tool to check the achievement of pupils and to monitor teaching and learning. As a result of weaknesses in monitoring and evaluation, including the direct monitoring of lessons, there are pockets of good practice but not always a consistency of approach.