The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
St Walburga's is a larger than average Catholic primary school situated in a socially advantaged area. The proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals is lower than average, as is the percentage with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Most pupils are from White British heritage. Few have English as an additional language although their number is gradually increasing. The school experienced considerable staffing difficulties between 2003 and 2005 but has addressed the problem successfully.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school with outstanding features. The school is largely accurate in its self-evaluation, although too modest in some aspects. Pupils make good progress rather than satisfactory and the curriculum is outstanding rather than good. Parents are very pleased with the education it provides. 'Since joining St Walburga's, my child has come on in leaps and bounds'. was a typical parental view.
Children get off to a good start in the Foundation Stage where good teaching moves them on from average starting points to above average levels by the time they enter Year 1. This good progress is sustained in Key Stage 1 where good teaching enables pupils to reach above average standards. A slow downward trend from 2003 to 2005 in results at Key Stage 2 caused by staffing difficulties has since been tackled and reversed. The results for 2006 show a significant improvement on those of 2005, putting the school back on track in achieving high standards through good achievement.
Pupils' personal development and well-being are a true strength of the school. This is a civilised and civilising community in which pupils learn the importance of respect and caring for others. Behaviour is excellent. Pupils really love coming to school and, by the time they are in Year 6, they have developed into mature and confident young people. They feel valued as individuals and appreciate the many opportunities they have to take on positions of responsibility.
Teaching is consistently good. Teachers prepare their lessons well and include a wide variety of activities to engage and motivate the pupils in their learning. They are particularly adept at meeting the needs of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities but sometimes the level of challenge for higher-attaining pupils is not sufficient to extend their learning. Teachers mark pupils' work conscientiously but the quality of their comments does not consistently tell pupils how they could make their work better.
The outstanding curriculum ensures that pupils acquire a good command of the basic skills. This is complemented by an innovative approach to creativity across the curriculum with art, drama and music being integrated, for example. The extensive range of enrichment activities adds significantly to pupils' health, enjoyment and well-being. The school cares well for its pupils. Information gathered from assessing their progress is used effectively to identify their learning needs and set individual targets. Although pupils know what their targets are, they are not always clear about what they need to do to reach them.
The leadership of the headteacher is very effective in making sure the school concentrates on continued improvement. It promotes good teamwork at all levels. The school offers good value for money and has good capacity to improve further. It has made good progress since the last inspection.
What the school should do to improve further
- Improve the quality and consistency of marking so that pupils have a better understanding of what they need to do to improve.
- Ensure that pupils know what they have to do to reach their targets in order to improve.
- Make all lessons consistently challenging for higher-attaining pupils.
Achievement and standards
On entry to the Foundation Stage, children's attainment is just above that expected for their age. By the time they enter Year 1, children have made good progress and many have exceeded the learning goals expected for their age. They continue to make good progress in Key Stage 1. In 2005 standards at the end of Year 2 were above average in reading and mathematics and just above average in writing.
Serious staffing difficulties led to a slow downward trend in attainment at Key Stage 2 between 2003 and 2005, although standards remained generally above average. In 2005 standards were average but the number of pupils reaching the higher levels was lower than expected. Based on the 2005 results the school reasonably judged achievement to be satisfactory. However, improvements to staffing and effective intervention and support programmes have paid dividends. The 2006 results in the core subjects, and especially in English, showed significant all-round improvement, reversing the trend. The school exceeded its very challenging 2006 targets in English, mathematics and science. A much greater number of pupils reached the higher levels. The 2006 results and inspection findings show that pupils achieve well and reach high standards.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' personal development and well-being are outstanding. Pupils personify the school motto of 'Put Others First' in their everyday life and in the way they work and play. Pupils love coming to school and attendance levels are above average. Older pupils speak with pride and authority about their opportunities to take on responsibilities to work with other classes in the school and to help and support younger pupils. Pupils understand the importance of healthy lifestyles and large numbers participate in the wide range of activities encouraging physical exercise, including the enterprising gardening club.
Pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is excellent and is underpinned by the strong Christian values which pervade all aspects of the school's life and work. It is further enhanced by a very wide range of visits and visitors. The spiritual development of pupils is particularly strong and is apparent in regular sharing assemblies, prayers, music, drama and art. The school council is very successful in engaging large numbers of pupils in playing a meaningful role in the development of the school. By becoming confident and articulate young people with good basic skills the pupils are prepared well for their future economic well-being.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are consistently good; some teaching is outstanding. Relationships are very good and pupils approach their lessons in a calm and purposeful manner. Staff have high expectations of pupils' behaviour and achievement. Consequently, pupils want to do well and work very hard. The pace of learning is fast. Teachers use a variety of resources, including interactive whiteboards, to enliven lessons. As a result, pupils enjoy lessons a great deal and make good progress in learning key skills such as literacy and numeracy. Pupils are encouraged to contribute to class discussions and learn to work independently. However, at the present time, although pupils' work is marked regularly, variations in its quality means that pupils are not always clear about what they should do to improve the quality of their work. Teachers are skilled at assessing the progress which pupils make and use the information obtained to plan lessons. Pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities make good progress because they are given very good support and are set work that is well matched to their particular needs. However, teachers do not consistently adapt lessons sufficiently to provide sufficient challenge for the highest attaining pupils in the school.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is outstanding. It is very well planned with a very good balance between creative activities and activities to develop key skills in literacy, numeracy and information and communication technology (ICT). Work in the classroom is complemented by an excellent variety of lunchtime and after-school clubs which are very well attended. Pupils have many opportunities to participate in musical activities and to engage in sport. Older pupils benefit from exciting residential visits. There is a very good programme to promote safe and healthy lifestyles. Pupils make a significant contribution to the community through fund-raising, conservation work and recycling. The curriculum meets statutory requirements fully. The school keeps a detailed record of those pupils who have additional gifts and talents and has a range of extra-curricular activities to help meet their needs. The school is developing suitable provision for the growing number of pupils who have English as an additional language. Suitable strategies are in place to support pupils to transfer successfully to secondary school.
Care, guidance and support
The school is a very caring community where all pupils are valued and nurtured. Pupils told the inspectors that they feel safe, happy and secure at school. Appropriate checks are made on adults working in the school and procedures to keep pupils safe and healthy are securely established and understood by staff. A good induction programme enables children to make a confident start when they join the nursery. Carefully planned provision and excellent links with parents and outside agencies ensure that vulnerable pupils are very well supported. Staff are effective in supporting and guiding pupils to become independent learners. However, although pupils have individual learning targets for core subjects, these are sometimes too broad and are not always reviewed regularly. Consequently, some pupils do not have a clear enough understanding of how well they are doing academically.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management focus successfully on making sure that pupils develop well personally and make good progress. The headteacher provides very effective leadership and is a very good role model. Her leadership provides the school with a clear set of high expectations and a shared vision for its future success. The good school development plan identifies priorities clearly and provides a good framework for the allocation of resources in the medium term.
The self-evaluation process is good and thorough. It takes into account the views of a wide range of interested parties including the parents and pupils. The subject coordinators and key stage managers carry out their responsibilities conscientiously and make sure that all pupils are included, regardless of ability. The quality of teaching and learning is monitored regularly and accurately. Results of monitoring are used to focus on improvement strategies and targets; the effectiveness of this is seen in the improved 2006 results at Key Stage 2. On a day-to-day basis the school is managed very effectively with well established rules and routines providing pupils with a firm but fair framework for living together harmoniously. Governors carry out their duties conscientiously. They are very supportive and are always ready to question and challenge the work of the school to ensure that it continues to improve.