The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector.
The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues in depth:
- the progress of pupils, especially the minority with learning difficulties and/or disabilities
- the quality of teaching and learning across the school
- the accuracy of self-evaluation.
Evidence was gathered through the observation of lessons, discussions with staff and pupils, the examination of examples of pupils’ work, school assessment data and documentation detailing the school’s work. The views of parents, as expressed in questionnaires, were taken into account. Apart from checking safeguarding procedures, other aspects of the school’s work were not investigated in detail but the inspector found no reason to suggest that the school’s assessments, as given in its self-evaluation, were not justified. These have been included, where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
This is a large primary school serving a relatively advantaged area. Nearly all pupils are White British; none is looked after by the local authority and the numbers of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is much lower than the national average. Most pupils start and finish their primary education in this school. The population of the school is slowly changing as a result of the reorganisation of primary education in the area, with increasing numbers of pupils being drawn from less advantaged areas of the locality.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Stanwix School provides an outstanding example to other schools. It clearly demonstrates how pupils can achieve exceptionally well and attain the highest standards in academic and personal development whilst thoroughly enjoying their education. Pupils are articulate, friendly, charming and inquisitive. Their excellent behaviour and the outstanding level of care provided by the school means that they need have no worries about staying safe and can concentrate on working and playing hard to achieve their full potential before moving on, with exceptionally bright prospects, to other schools.
There is no complacency. Staff fully appreciate the needs of all pupils, including the many very able and talented pupils who are part of each year group, and they respond outstandingly well to this by ensuring that tasks in lessons are always challenging, interesting and fun. Teachers keep a very close eye on the progress each pupil is making. As one parent points out, ‘If a child excels in a subject, they are encouraged; if they struggle in another, they are given extra help.’ Those pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are very well supported, and are often helped through skilled tuition in booster classes. Those who are identified as particularly gifted or talented are also given the extra push to help them excel. The timetable is filled with abundant opportunities for pupils to visit places of interest and to enjoy the many contributions of people from all walks of life who visit the school to share their experiences and skills. These additions to the curriculum are much enjoyed by pupils, appreciated by parents and often contribute enormously to cementing the school’s position at the heart of the community.
The school enjoys the overwhelming support of parents. This is the school of choice for most and there are rarely vacant places, such are its reputation and standing in the community. A few parents feel that communication between themselves and the school could be improved. Whilst the school already goes further than most in this regard, managers are looking for ways to achieve greater parental satisfaction on this count.
Since the last inspection, standards have significantly exceeded the national average. By the end of Year 2, the number of pupils exceeding national expectations is exceptionally high, with almost three quarters exceeding the expectation for their age. A three-year average of Year 6 test results in English, mathematics and science puts the school comfortably in the top 10% of all schools nationally. It is very rare for any pupil not to reach the National Curriculum level appropriate to their age. Pupils’ achievements in science are exceptional, with almost three quarters exceeding national expectations. Mathematics is rapidly developing similar success. This is the result of excellent management initiatives to improve provision, by ensuring that all aspects of the subject are taught thoroughly and by teaching pupils to apply their learning to real life problems. English results dipped slightly last year but standards remain significantly higher than in most other schools. The dip was quickly and perceptively traced to the slight underachievement of a very small group of pupils. Excellent management has rapidly, and effectively, put in place good measures to remedy this situation. It is particularly heartening to see that the quality of boys’ writing matches that of girls, reflecting the importance the school places on promoting writing in all subjects and for a wide range of purposes. Pupils at both key stages are currently on course to reach the challenging targets set for this year’s tests. Many fine examples of pupils’ writing, and their excellent artwork, contribute enormously to creating a learning environment which is richly stimulating, informative and impeccably maintained.
The key to all of this success for pupils is the consistently high quality teaching, which is regularly monitored and accurately evaluated. In recent years, there is no record of any teaching considered less than good, whilst much of it has been outstanding. One of the strengths of this high quality teaching is the precision with which teachers identify exactly what they expect pupils to learn in each lesson, how this learning relates to what pupils have learned in the past and how it can contribute to future learning. Pupils know that every time they enter a classroom they are going to be faced with new and exciting challenges and will enjoy the glow of success if they work hard. They invariably do so, free from distraction because behaviour is so good. A strong feature of many lessons is the encouragement that pupils are given to work with each other, share ideas and help one another. This approach creates a lively buzz in classrooms as pupils chatter about their work and get excited about the new things they are finding out. School monitoring records indicate that the main difference between good and outstanding teaching often relates to the pace of lessons and the allocation of time for different activities. These perceived weaknesses were not in evidence during the inspection, but indicate the desire of leaders and managers to keep raising the bar in their drive for better and better teaching.
Central to the success of the school is an excellent headteacher, who provides outstanding leadership, and a dedicated, highly effective governing body. The senior leadership team and subject leaders make an enormous contribution to the development of the school. Every aspect of provision is carefully monitored, evaluated and matched to the progress that pupils are making and, as a result, there has been considerable improvement since the previous inspection and the school is very well placed to maintain its excellent standards. One of the great strengths of leadership and management is that every new initiative has a clear, unambiguous purpose. Everything is kept as simple as possible, allowing staff to concentrate their time and energy on helping pupils and raising standards without being burdened by cumbersome administrative tasks.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Most children enter the Foundation Stage in the Reception class with skills above those typical for their age. Through excellent teaching and exceptionally high levels of care, support and management, children are very well supported to make rapid progress. By the end of Reception most children exceed the national expectations in all areas of learning and are very well prepared for the challenges of Year 1. The curriculum serves the needs of all children and strongly reflects the wishes of parents, who recognise that their children have already mastered many early learning skills and are ready to move on to more formal learning. The school recognises that a few of the very youngest children are not best served by this approach, because they have too few opportunities to learn through experiment and play in an outdoor setting. These minor weaknesses in outdoor provision are already being addressed by the school.
What the school should do to improve further
- Push ahead with plans to strengthen the Foundation Stage curriculum.