The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools and two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The Mablethorpe Tennyson High School is a small secondary modern school in a selective system, serving the town of Mablethorpe and the surrounding area. Most students are from White British backgrounds, and there are significantly more boys than girls. The school has a rapidly falling roll with a projected single form of entry for September 2007. The school serves an area of significant social and economic disadvantage and there is high mobility in all year groups. The proportion of students with learning difficulties and disabilities, including those with statements of special educational need, is well above average.
As part of a local authority strategy to secure improvement, the school is part of a 'soft-federation' with The Giles School for a period of two years.
Overall effectiveness of the school
The Mablethorpe Tennyson High School is a satisfactory and rapidly improving school. It has some good features in terms of the leadership and management of senior staff and the care, guidance and support for students. Although the school has cared for its students well over many years, the improvements in leadership are very recent and have had a dramatic effect on improving the school. This has been mainly due to the 'soft federation' arrangements to partner the school with The Giles School, another highly successful school within the authority.
Since the last inspection, achievement has been poor and standards exceptionally low, placing the school well below minimum national expectations. There have been improvements in Key Stage 3 results over the last two years, but achievement at General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) level has remained inadequate. In the last year, a dynamic headteacher and deputy headteacher from the partner school have improved the provision. This has consisted of several key initiatives. There has been an unswerving focus on the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning which is now satisfactory. The satisfactory curriculum has been restructured to offer a much wider range of opportunities, particularly in vocational courses. These offer many students relevant and motivating courses in which they can achieve success. The leadership team has raised aspirations and made students proud of their school.
This has been achieved by using staff from The Giles School and local authority services to coach, support and mentor existing staff. Clear expectations about lesson objectives, structure and planning have been thoroughly embedded in practice. Students themselves have clearly noticed the difference, with more exciting and interesting lessons being offered that encourage them to achieve more. Staff have now taken up the challenge of moving teaching forward further in the coming year. They have recognised the need to make assessment and marking more consistent as a priority. Information about progress is now used well to set targets and raise students' expectations of success. Most staff now use this information to help students overcome difficulties and achieve their best. This has made the already strong day-to-day pastoral support for students into a real strength of the school.
These improvements have had a major impact on the school in several important ways. Staff are more confident and are creating a 'can do' culture. Students believe that they can succeed and have higher hopes of success in examinations and in their future lives. Above all, there is evidence of much better progress by students across the school and particularly in Year 10. Assessment shows that students are now making at least satisfactory progress, with many exceeding expectations. This is supported by observations during the inspection and the work in students' books and folders. Much stronger progress is made in most lessons than examination results would suggest and this is matched by the quality of written work. The school now needs to ensure that this good progress is translated into better results in examinations and tests.
Students have also responded to recent changes by behaving well and attending more regularly. Their personal development is satisfactory overall. They show good social and moral skills in their interactions with adults and each other, but their spiritual and cultural awareness is more limited.
The school has a very good capacity to improve further. Much depends on a timely decision by the local authority on the longer term, permanent arrangements for leadership and management in order to consolidate recent improvements.
What the school should do to improve further
- Work with the local authority to secure a timely decision on the long-term leadership and management of the school in order to sustain recent improvements.
- Raise standards in published examination results, particularly at Key Stage 4, in order to improve the life chances of the young people in its care.
- Develop more consistent assessment for learning in order to inform both teachers' planning and students' awareness of how to improve their work.
Achievement and standards
Attainment on entry is very low and, in some year groups exceptionally low. Standards at Key Stage 3 are well below average but they have improved over the last few years. In 2006, English results enjoyed a significant improvement in performance, taking standards almost up to expected levels, whilst mathematics and science maintained a rising trend. The progress made by students is satisfactory overall and good in English. Students with learning difficulties and disabilities often make better progress than their peers.
Standards at Key Stage 4 are exceptionally low and have been so over recent years. There were continuing improvements in 2006 in some measures. Some higher ability students made particularly poor progress whilst students with learning difficulties often made satisfactory progress. A much smaller proportion of students took five or more GCSE subjects than is found nationally, limiting the progress that they could make.
Assessment information and observation during this inspection indicates that students are now making at least satisfactory progress, with some exceeding expectations. This is due to changes in the curriculum and improved teaching and learning. Improvement can also be seen in the sound progress made in most lessons and in the quality of students' work.
The school is setting increasingly ambitious targets for future attainment. Targets for 2007 are realistic and, if attained, will maintain the steady improvement of recent years. 2008 targets and predictions at GCSE would see a step change in achievement similar to that seen recently in Key Stage 3.
Personal development and well-being
Students' moral and social education has improved because of higher expectations and the improved provision for personal, social and health education (PSHE). There is less evidence of spiritual development, although students are encouraged to reflect on a range of issues during assemblies and in some lessons. More students are now taking part in a wider range of activities, including visits to places of educational interest. Multicultural awareness is limited but the exploration of other cultures and beliefs in religious education lessons makes a satisfactory contribution.
A few parents expressed concerns about behaviour, but inspectors found it to be good. Most students behave very maturely and show a positive attitude. Exclusions have fallen substantially since September 2006, due to good provision through the Learning Support Centre and other improvements that the federation has brought about. The students recognise that there is now a more consistent approach to dealing with inappropriate behaviour. Attendance is around the national average and is improving. Effective systems are now in place to monitor and promptly follow-up non-attendance. Although usually supported by parents, this is not always the case.
Because students recognise the recent improvements, many now enjoy school and are keen to succeed. However, a significant number remain too passive during some lessons. Students adopt safe practices in science and design technology and are sensible whilst moving around the school. Students are aware of a healthy lifestyle through the Healthy Schools status and the improved choice of food at lunchtime. More students are now involved in school activities, but some, particularly girls, would welcome a wider range of sports opportunities.
Students now feel they have a voice in the school which is listened to and acted upon. The reinstated school council makes a strong contribution, influences decisions and works to support charities. Students develop reasonable workplace skills to promote their economic well-being but information and communication technology (ICT) and literacy skills are under developed and some say that the Connexions service is not always helpful.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are satisfactory with some good features. By sharing existing good practice and with the strong support of staff from its federation school, the teachers have made great strides in recent months in improving teaching skills. This is evident in many lessons where teachers use a common structure with clear objectives for learning, identifying the needs of individual students. Most students respond to this and engage with their work. The inspectors judged that they make good progress in lessons, though this is not yet reflected in achievement in published examination results.
In the best lessons, teachers check students' understanding through probing questions that make them think more deeply. Some teaching fails fully to capture the interests of the students and, in these cases, they are not all sufficiently involved with taking responsibility for their work. The school is aware that further development is needed to ensure that teaching and learning are consistently good across the different subjects.
Some work is well marked with helpful comments aimed at improvement but this is not common across all subjects and further training is planned in this area. Students with learning difficulties and disabilities are well catered for by the effective use of learning support staff in lessons and by tailored work to help them improve, particularly in reading.
Curriculum and other activities
Having undergone significant change since 2006, the curriculum is satisfactory and now meets the needs of most students. Vocationally related courses have been introduced in Year 10. These are popular with students and assessment and observation during the inspection indicates that progress is improving. The vocational provision will be extended into the planned sixth form in 2007 to offer a clear progression route for students. In Key Stage 3 and 4, classes are organised by ability in core subjects, and the establishment of single sex groups in Key Stage 4 core subjects is having a positive effect in increasing the motivation of girls.
The use of ICT across all subjects is not yet sufficiently established but support from the partner school is being used to encourage its use both in and out of lessons. The curriculum provides for the satisfactory development of skills contributing to students' future economic well-being through activities such as careers advice and work experience. There is an expanding range of extra-curricular activities, including revision classes in core subjects to ensure that able students have the necessary support to work towards the highest grades.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are good. Day-to-day pastoral care is good, building on the experience of staff and their knowledge of families and the area. The size of the school means that internal communication about students is managed effectively. Health and safety procedures are monitored satisfactorily and child protection arrangements are in place and, although not all staff are fully trained, such training is to take place shortly. The requirements for checking the suitability of staff are in place with the single central record being maintained by the local authority. The school effectively applies anti-bullying and anti-racism policies.
The introduction of vocational courses at Key Stage 4 has enabled students to be given real choices at this stage in their school careers and to begin thinking about possible routes available beyond the school. There is good provision to support students with learning difficulties and disabilities. Detailed individual education plans are shared with students and parents, including targets.
The new Learning Support Centre, mentoring and counselling are meeting students' individual needs and are having an impact on their progress. Mentors are used to work with Year 9 and Year 11 students and are having an impact on their motivation and progress. All students have individual targets, monitored by frequent interim reports, and target setting days for parents are well established.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are good. Until recently, there have been weaknesses in provision and inadequate achievement. The recent federation with the Giles School has led to rapid improvements. The executive headteacher and executive deputy headteacher, supported by other attached staff from the partner school and local authority, have brought increased stability. More importantly, there is now a renewed sense of purpose and a sharp focus on improving teaching, learning and achievement. This is reflected in a good level of school improvement planning, including considerable time and expertise given to effective training and support. The senior team has established a thorough programme of observation and evaluation to ensure that planned changes are making an impact. Leadership at a senior level is outstanding.
Although some strong teachers from existing staff have been added to the senior team, leadership throughout the school is less consistent. Subject leaders are now being trained to monitor and evaluate teaching and learning in their own areas, and change is still being supported by coaching from staff from the partnership school. Resources are used effectively to support learning, particularly the recent improvements to the ICT system. Financial management is sound and the school now offers satisfactory value for money.
Governors are supportive but their role in holding the school to account is limited. The Children's Services Improvement and Delivery Board is working with the school to look at the longer term future of educational provision in the locality, including establishing a vocational sixth form at the school. Funding has been raised to support the federation arrangements and developments on the school site. There is a need for a timely decision by the local authority concerning the longer term future of leadership and management at the school if present progress is to be consolidated.