The inspection was carried out by two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This average-sized school is situated on the outskirts of Oldham and serves a popular residential area. The percentage of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is above average. There are 20 pupils with statements of special educational need and most of them attend the two small classes for pupils with language disorders, funded by the local authority. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for a free school meal is well below average. Most pupils are of White British heritage and there are very few pupils who are at an early stage of learning English. There are significantly more boys than girls in the school. St Paul's holds the Toothfriendly Gold awards, is working towards Healthy School status and is developing an Education for Peace curriculum. It is proud of its strong links with the church.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school which has made significant improvements since the previous inspection, notably in the quality of teaching and learning, in the standards pupils reach and in the progress they make. It has good capacity to improve further and provides good value for money. Parents are overwhelmingly supportive of what the school does for their offspring and comment, 'St Paul's develops our children in a safe and secure environment and caters for the needs of each individual.'
Pupils are proud of their school and recognise that they, too, have an important part to play in looking after younger children and those who are experiencing difficulty. Teachers and teaching assistants are very good role models and provide high levels of care and support for their pupils, irrespective of their learning difficulties or levels of ability. As a result, pupils achieve well in both their personal and academic development. In the two small classes funded by the local authority, youngsters with communication and language difficulties are fully included in everything the school has to offer.
Children make a good start in the Nursery and Reception classes and are prepared well for the rigours of Key Stage 1.Good and sometimes outstanding teaching leads to pupils achieving well across the school reaching above average standards by the time they leave in Year 6. Their progress in reading and writing is particularly good but, although attainment in mathematics has improved over the past four years, pupils' progress in this subject is not quite as fast as in others.
The vibrant displays of pupils' work in classrooms, on corridors and in the main hall demonstrate just how much pupils enjoy their school. They attend regularly, behave well and are delighted to take on responsibilities to help the school run smoothly. They take full advantage of the many opportunities they have to evaluate the work of their classmates and offer them advice on how to improve with a sensitivity which belies their years. Relationships are, therefore, a major strength and pupils are delighted when their peers succeed.
Pupils have a keen understanding of the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and take full advantage of the many sports activities on offer. They speak positively of the trips they make, the archaeological dig, for example, and of the out-of-class clubs which help them feel part of the whole-school community. They have close connections with the church and take part in a wide range of events, designed to enrich their view of the world and to support charities at a local, national and global level. Their understanding of Britain as a multicultural society is, however, underdeveloped.
The school is led and managed well and the headteacher and senior team have a clear vision for future development. Staff at all levels are not complacent and, supported by a well-informed governing body, are utterly committed to both the personal and academic welfare of the pupils in their care. Significant improvements in standards since the last inspection, pupils' good personal development and the outstanding care, guidance and support provided for them demonstrate that St Paul's lives up to its motto: ''Love to Learn, Learn to Love.'
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Provision in the Foundation Stage is good and children achieve well in all areas of their learning. Well-resourced and stimulating provision in the Nursery and Reception classes enables children to make a good start to their school careers. Staff understand the needs of young children well and plan exciting activities which stimulate their curiosity and desire to learn. Children's development is assessed regularly, systematically and thoroughly. The information provided enables teachers and teaching assistants to provide the challenge and support children need to learn effectively and to develop their skills. Excellent relationships and constructive guidance provide a secure foundation for children's personal, social and emotional development. They work and play happily together, follow school routines sensibly and readily participate in all the activities on offer. Leadership and management are good and are managed well and there is a smooth transition between classes.
What the school should do to improve further
- Accelerate pupils' progress in mathematics.
- Give pupils more opportunities to become more aware of the different cultures represented in Britain.
Achievement and standards
Children enter the Foundation Stage with skills that are broadly expected for their age. They achieve well across the school to reach above average standards by the time they leave at the end of Year 6. They respond positively to the challenging targets set for them and their progress in reading and writing is particularly good. However, progress in mathematics lags behind that in English and science, but standards in this subject are still higher than at the time of the previous inspection. An area for development four years ago, more able pupils now reach the standards of which they are capable and sometimes surpass their targets. In addition, such is the quality of support from both teachers and teaching assistants that pupils with learning difficulties, including those in the resourced classes, make the same progress as their peers and indeed often surprise themselves at what they can do.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils enjoy their school, are very proud of it and feel safe. As they say, 'our friends and our teachers make sure that we are kind to each other.' Attendance is consistently above average and pupils arrive in the morning punctually and with smiles on their faces. Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good. Pupils have a strong sense of right and wrong, exemplified by their good behaviour and reinforced by the thought-provoking assemblies they attend and by the school's emphasis on the concept of peace. A wide range of visits and visitors and the introduction of Spanish enhance their cultural awareness but their understanding of Britain as a multi-cultural society is limited.
Pupils are aware of the importance of healthy eating and of keeping fit. They take full advantage of the many sports activities on offer. Pupils in all years are encouraged to develop a sense of responsibility for others, including the school council, sports captains and monitors in all areas of school life. They also play a full part in church activities within the local community. They speak positively of the rewards systems and are pleased to tell visitors about the different aspects of 'Knights' and 'Stars'. The good progress pupils make in English, mathematics, and information and communication technology (ICT) prepares them well for their secondary school careers and also for life beyond formal education.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The quality of teaching and learning is good and there are examples of outstanding practice in Key Stage 2. Effective teaching in both Nursery and Reception encourages children to take responsibility for their own learning at such an early stage in their school careers. Warm relationships between pupils and between pupils and adults are key features of the classroom: teachers and teaching assistants treat their pupils with the utmost dignity and mutual respect abounds. Appropriate levels of challenge are the order of the day and pupils respond positively to the sophisticated questioning techniques of their teachers, which encourage them to think more deeply about the subject matter. In the best lessons, pupils are fully engaged and express their views with confidence and sensitivity, shown in an excellent Year 5 literacy session, for example, in which pupils presented their ideas on 'The person I admire most'. Focused support for pupils with learning difficulties is a major strength and the talented team of teaching assistants has high expectations of what their charges can achieve. In a minority of lessons, teachers direct the learning too much, pace drops as a result and not all pupils are fully engaged in the activities.
The school is rightly proud of its enviable reputation in assessment. Marking is both detailed and informative, and pupils themselves enjoy evaluating the work of their classmates. Moreover, they are fully aware of how to improve their own standards because criteria for success are shared with them in each and every lesson.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum meets all pupils' needs well and there is an appropriate emphasis on basic skills and on promoting pupils' personal development. As a result, pupils make particularly good progress in literacy and ICT, and their emotional development is also enhanced. Learners have many opportunities to take responsibility, both in lessons and outside the classroom. These contribute to the purposeful atmosphere that is evident throughout the school. The curriculum provides well for pupils with learning difficulties. Pupils with communication and language disorders in the resourced classes, for example, make good progress as a result.
There is a wide range of out-of-class activities, including sport and music, and participation rates are high. The annual 'Artsweek' is a highlight of the school calendar and the classrooms and corridors are adorned with pupils' drawings and paintings. There is a good variety of visits and visitors, and all pupils learn Spanish. However, the school's work to promote pupils' awareness of the wider multi-cultural world is at an early stage of development.
Care, guidance and support
The quality of pastoral care, support and guidance provided for pupils is outstanding and is founded on the excellent relationships between adults and pupils and among pupils themselves. Parents agree and add, 'We are grateful for the high quality of support our sons and daughters receive. It makes an enormous difference to the progress they make.' Child protection and procedures to ensure pupils' health and safety are well established and secure. Pupils rightly feel safe and very well cared for. Pupils, who find the work hard, including those in the two resourced classes, are very well supported by teachers and other adults. The appropriate use of praise, including the popular merit systems, leads to pupils demonstrating positive attitudes, politeness and consideration for others. Pupils new to the school settle down quickly and they are also prepared fully for their transfer to secondary school at the end of Year 6.
Academic guidance for pupils of all abilities is very impressive. Pupils are regularly involved in assessing their own work and that of their classmates and are adept at identifying their own personal and curricular targets.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management, including governance, are good. The headteacher provides decisive leadership which is founded on creating a clear sense of direction and a good level of challenge for all. She delegates effectively and other managers are increasingly influential in their roles. School improvement focuses clearly on raising standards and achievement, and this is reflected in the marked improvement in attainment and progress since the previous inspection. Tracking arrangements to check on pupils' progress are comprehensive and any possible underachievement is identified rapidly. The school's excellent care for pupils is rooted in the emphasis on promoting pupils' academic and emotional development. The school runs smoothly and financial management is on an even keel. Governors provide the right balance of support and challenge to the capable school team.
Leaders set ambitious targets and are effective in achieving them. The quality of the school's self-evaluation is good. It is largely accurate and identifies priorities for development effectively. Leaders do not rest on their laurels and performance management is used well to drive improvement across the school.