The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors and two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
St Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic Middle School is smaller than most middle schools. Most pupils are from Catholic households though a significant proportion are from other religious backgrounds. Almost all pupils are of White British origin. The proportion of pupils identified as having learning difficulties/and or disabilities is in line with the national average, as is the number of pupils entitled to a free school meal.
Overall effectiveness of the school
St Wilfrid’s RC Middle School is a good school. The quality of care and pupils’ personal development and well-being is outstanding. These are key features of this school and the attitudes and behaviour displayed by pupils, impact positively on their learning. This is acknowledged and appreciated by parents who value the strong sense of family that gives pupils a feeling of belonging. As a consequence pupils feel safe and secure and this allows them to blossom into well rounded, responsible young people. Relationships between staff and pupils are very good. Pupils are very well mannered and behaviour is exemplary. Healthy lifestyles are promoted effectively through the curriculum, for example, in science and physical education. Pupils are encouraged to pursue sporting ambitions and their efforts are recognised both within school and in the wider community. The Sportsmark award, for the second year running reflects the importance that the school places on the benefits of sport and the contribution it makes to pupils self esteem and confidence.
Pupils, including those with learning difficulties/and or disabilities make good progress overall and leave the school with standards in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science that exceed the national average. Pupils make particularly good progress in Years 7 and 8 because the quality of teaching is consistently good. In the first two years, Years 5 and 6, teaching is more variable and as a result pupils make satisfactory progress and achieve standards in the core subjects that are broadly average. Underdeveloped mechanisms to identify and act on gaps in skills and knowledge also contribute to the inconsistent progress made by pupils as they move through the first two years. Inconsistent progress made by pupils in different year groups has been the case for some time and has yet to be successfully tackled by senior management.
The curriculum meets statutory requirements. Provision for the acquisition of basic literacy and numeracy skills prepares pupils well in terms of their economic well-being. Visits to places of interest in relation their studies and visiting speakers bring the curriculum to life and make learning interesting and enjoyable. A good range of extra curricular activites enrich pupils’ experiences and contribute to their social and emotional development.
The creation of a warm, caring, positive learning environment where all pupils feel valued and where the focus on pupils’ personal development has successfully impacted on pupils’ progress is due to the leadership demonstrated by the head teacher over a number of years. However, the rate of improvement in relation to the issues identified in the previous inspection has been too slow. Strategies designed to bring about improvements particularly with regard to teaching and learning and systems to monitor and evaluate their impact on pupil performance are not embedded. The headteacher is assisted by an able senior leadership team who are well placed to provide the support necessary to take the school forward. Middle leaders who have responsibility for subject development have recently taken up their positions and are beginning to make headway in an effort to secure improvements. Governors are extremely supportive of the work of the school and recognise its strengths. They are also conscious of what needs to be done and acknowledge the importance of holding the school to account as part of the school improvement process. The school has satisfactory capacity to improve and provides good value for money.
What the school should do to improve further
- Monitor and evaluate more effectively the work of the school to ensure that it leads to improvement.
- Improve the progress of pupils in Years 5 and 6 so that it matches that of pupils higher up the school.
Achievement and standards
Pupils make good progress overall and reach above average standards by the time they leave at the end of Year 8. School data indicates that pupils' attainment on entry at the beginning of Year 5 is broadly average. Over the last three years trends at Key Stage 2 have fluctuated in English and science and declined in mathematics. Pupils currently make satisfactory progress during Years 5 and 6. They attain broadly average standards in the Key Stage 2 tests, with the percentage of pupils reaching level 4 and level 5 reflecting the national average in English and mathematics. In science standards are above average at level 4 and below at level 5.
The rate of pupil progress accelerates in Years 7 and 8 due to consistently good teaching. High expectations and enjoyable lessons enable all pupils to progress well, including those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Pupils respond well to the targets they are set and the advice they are given as to how to improve. In 2007 the good achievement and standards were confirmed by results in the Year 8 optional tests which show results to be above average. This is supported by the end of Key Stage 3 results, showing that St Wilfrid’s Middle School pupils made good progress and achieved well above national averages in English, mathematics and science after two terms at their secondary school.
The difference in the rate of progress between pupils in Years 5-6 and 7-8 is in part due to the quality of teaching. It is also due to gaps in some pupils’ knowledge and skills not being identified quickly enough.
Personal development and well-being
The behaviour of pupils in lessons and as they move about the school is exemplary. Pupils enjoy school and particularly value the good relationships that they have with all staff. Pupils’ attitudes to learning are good; they listen carefully to their teachers and respond to questions and instructions in a positive manner and this impacts positively on the progress they make. Pupils are polite and courteous and relationships with their peers are good. A significant number of parents and pupils have expressed concern over the behaviour of a minority of pupils including occasional instances of low level bullying. No evidence of bullying was apparent during the inspection; however, the headteacher and staff do monitor behaviour carefully and have a policy and procedures in place to deal with instances should they arise. Provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is good overall. Assemblies are used very effectively to promote key moral messages, including, empathy and a strong sense of right and wrong. The school council makes a valuable contribution to the school community. Most importantly, pupils are developing an understanding of the democratic process, learning the art of compromise and realising the value of listening to different opinions. Pupils are conscious of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle and the school gives a very good lead as to the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Pupils especially appreciate opportunities to participate in sporting activites which allow them to pursue personal goals and ambitions. This increases self esteem and confidence. The school has recently been awarded the Sportsmark that acknowledges exceptional delivery within the National School Sport Strategy.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The overall quality of teaching and learning is good. It is consistently better in Years 7 and 8 than in Years 5 and 6. In the best lessons the good relationships enable teachers to create a strong feeling of security for pupils which impacts on their attitudes to learning and as a result pupils make good progress. There is good use of questioning which extends pupils’ understanding and opportunities for reflection enable them to articulate their thoughts which enhance their understanding. Confident teaching based on good subject knowledge engages the interest of pupils with skilfully planned, challenging lessons matched to pupils' level of ability and learning needs. These lessons are typified by high expectations. Pupils say that lessons are good where they are interesting, they are involved and ‘it’s fun’.
Where teaching makes less of an impact on learning, characteristics include; insecure use of assessment to inform planning, no direct link between marking and short term individual pupil targets, low expectations of what pupils can achieve accompanied by activities that fail to challenge pupils. There is evidence of good quality marking throughout the school that is both evaluative and informative. But marking of this quality is not well embedded across all subjects.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is good and meets statutory requirements. Pupils’ personal skills are promoted by planned personal, social and health education. Citizenship has been reviewed and a planned curriculum has recently been introduced. Pupils enjoy the opportunities to join lunchtime clubs and participate in a broad range of out-of-class activities, including residential experiences. This enhances their emotional and social skills and contributes to their personal development. There is good emphasis on developing literacy and numeracy skills, although planned opportunities to apply these skills in other subjects is limited. The curriculum is successfully enriched by a range of educational visits and visitors that helps to bring the curriculum to life. The school acknowledges the need to increase IT provision and its use across all subjects and is working hard to achieve this. The needs of pupils with learning difficulties/and or disabilities are effectively met through carefully planned work and this contributes to good progress. Provision for pupils’ spiritual, social, moral and cultural development is good overall. Provision in respect of cultural development, particularly with regard to making pupils aware of what it means to live in a multi-racial society is less well established.
Care, guidance and support
The quality of care is excellent. There is a clear link between a safe, secure learning environment, underpinned by a genuine concern for the welfare of the individual and the development of positive learning attitudes that impact on progress. Considerate, caring relationships are much in evidence in lessons and reflect mutual respect and trust between pupils and staff. All the necessary checks to safeguard pupils’ health, safety and well being are in place and meet current requirements. Action to promote the value and benefits of sustaining good attendance is effective. Good use is made of a range of agencies to provide additional support for pupils, including the vulnerable, to ensure all achieve as well as they can. This includes provision for the emotional needs of individual pupils, for example through the Bliss Mediation Service. Academic guidance is not fully developed and practice varies across the school. The progress of individual pupils is monitored over time but assessment of pupils’ progress during lessons is not used consistently to inform lesson planning. There are some good examples of marking that is evaluative and informs pupils what they must do to improve. However, the quality and detail varies between subjects and teachers. There is no clear link between marking and short term individual pupil targets designed to support progress.
Leadership and management
‘St Wilfrid’s provides a caring environment where the pupils are valued, happy, confident and have a positive attitude to learning.’ This comment encapsulates the view of the great majority of parents. The positive attitudes and behaviour exhibited by pupils are significant features of this school because they help pupils to make good progress overall. This has not come about by chance. The leadership demonstrated by the headteacher over a number of years has been successful in establishing this strong sense of community in which pupils are well cared for and developing into responsible young adults. The management of change, particularly in respect of monitoring and evaluating the work of the school is lacking in rigour. The school’s self-evaluation is largely accurate, although in some aspects over generous. Areas for improvement identified by senior management are appropriate but lack detail. While progress since the previous inspection is satisfactory; the overall pace of change has been too slow, particularly with regard to monitoring the quality of teaching and the progress made by pupils up until the end of Key Stage 2. The school improvement plan, while identifying key areas designed to improve the overall quality of provision does not focus sufficiently on monitoring and evaluating the impact initiatives have on pupils, nor on the time scale in which improvements are to be realised. A middle management team, that has, as a priority, the improvement of standards, has been in place for two terms. As individuals they are keen and committed to playing a key role in taking the school forward. They are in the process of considering action plans based on an audit of need, which will reflect areas for development identified in the school improvement plan. The governing body is supportive of the work of the school and has worked hard under the leadership of the Chair, to ensure that statutory policies are in place. Governors acknowledge the need to monitor the work of the school more closely in order to ensure that the school moves forward at an acceptable pace. As a consequence, and combined with the emerging potential of the middle management team and a senior leadership team that is clearly dedicated to the welfare of pupils, the school has satisfactory capacity to improve.