The inspection was carried out by one of Her Majesty's Inspectors and two Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
The Manor Community College is a mixed secondary school in north Cambridge. It is much smaller than the average secondary school. The number of students known to be eligible for free school meals is above average. Students' attainment on entry in Year 7 is below average, overall. The number with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is broadly average, although the percentage with a statement of special educational need is above average. The majority of students are from White British backgrounds with small numbers from minority ethnic groups. The proportion of students who speak English as an additional language is broadly average.
The college holds the Basic Skills Agency Quality Mark and was awarded specialist Performing Arts status in September 2007. The current principal has been in post since September 2007.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Standards at Key Stages 3 and 4 have been consistently lower than national averages in recent years, but given students' below average attainment on entry, achievement is satisfactory. Recently, Key Stage 3 standards have improved and the college is focused on achieving similar improvement at Key Stage 4. The revised college leadership team, under the direction of the new principal, is aware of the priority to raise standards, particularly in English and mathematics at Key Stage 4, and has an appropriate improvement strategy underway. Following this year's drive to improve results, some improvement is evident. The college's current monitoring of progress indicates that students are now on track to achieve better results in 2008.
Students say they enjoy college life and this is demonstrated in their positive attitudes to learning. Students' personal and social development is good. They are positive about the various improvements and increasingly proud of their college.
Teaching and learning are satisfactory overall with examples of good and outstanding teaching but these are inconsistent. Whilst pastoral care is a strength, academic guidance is less successful. Opportunities to involve students in assessing their own work, or inform them of the next steps to improve their learning, are not always taken.
The curriculum is good and continues to develop well in response to students' needs. Pastoral support and guidance are effective. The college has developed effective partnerships with a range of external partners to support students and foster their welfare and well-being.
Academic guidance is satisfactory but not better because the systematic use of assessment to inform guidance is not consistent. The use of a whole-college approach for tracking and monitoring progress is developing well, but has not had sufficient time to impact significantly on standards and achievement. Similarly, use of performance data to plan future learning is inconsistent.
Leadership and management are satisfactory overall. The newly appointed principal is realistic, accurate in his assessment of the college's performance, and committed to ongoing improvement. He has made a difference in a short time. The senior team and governors have a shared understanding of strengths and areas to improve and a determined approach to tackling any weaknesses. The middle leadership team is satisfactory with some strengths, but is not yet fully effective in driving forward whole college improvement. There has been satisfactory improvement since the last inspection. The college's capacity to improve from this point is good, given the clarity of its self-evaluation and good understanding of priorities for improvement.
What the school should do to improve further
- Raise standards at Key Stage 4.
- Improve the consistency and quality of teaching to the best levels seen in the college and share best practice more widely.
- Use performance data consistently across the college to plan teaching and learning.
- Improve the effectiveness of middle leaders to a consistently good standard.
A small proportion of the schools where overall effectiveness is judged satisfactory but which have areas of underperformance will receive a monitoring visit by an Ofsted inspector before their next section 5 inspection.
Achievement and standards
Standards at Key Stage 3 have improved to around national averages in English and science, with significant improvement in 2007. Standards in mathematics also improved in 2007 but remain below the national average. The progress made by students from their starting points in Year 7 until the end of Year 9 improved sharply in 2007, particularly in English and science.
Standards at Key Stage 4 are below average and have remained so for a while. Achievement is variable across subjects and better in history, science and drama than in other subjects. The percentage of pupils gaining a good GCSE pass in both English and mathematics has remained static and considerably below the national average. This remains a priority for the college. Strenuous efforts are underway to tackle this issue with robust action being taken to improve this year's results. An extensive range of strategies, including catch-up sessions, revision classes and individual mentoring have been implemented. The college's current monitoring records indicate that progress in English and mathematics is improving following intervention, with students reaching better standards, more in line with predictions.
Students who find learning difficult or have disabilities are well supported and make similar progress to other groups but the number of higher grades achieved by more able students, whilst good in history, remains too low overall.
Students' progress from standards on entry in Year 7 to GCSE significantly improved in 2007. However, the college is not complacent and recognises that several key indicators, such as the number of students gaining a good pass in English and mathematics, remain too low.
Progress in lessons observed during inspection confirmed the college's view that students are currently making at least satisfactory and sometimes good progress. Therefore, inspectors agree with the college's judgement that standards and achievement are satisfactory overall, by the time students reach Year 11.
Personal development and well-being
Students' personal development and well-being are good. However, their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is satisfactory overall. The college covers the study of different cultures appropriately and has improved pupils' understanding of the implications of living in a multi-cultural society, but this remains the weakest aspect. The opportunities for spiritual reflection outside of religious education are limited.
Due to the strong structures for behaviour management, behaviour in lessons and around the college is good. Students have good relationships with each other and with adults. They generally attend lessons with a willingness to learn. Attendance is broadly average and improving due to the robust actions being taken to improve this. Students work well together and show good enjoyment of their education. They recognise the improvements in the college and are pleased with efforts to make the college environment more attractive.
Students have a good understanding of safe practices and demonstrate these within the college environment. They also have good understanding of the requirements of a healthy lifestyle. While less consistent in applying these, a growing number is involved in additional sport and recreational activities.
Students take advantage of opportunities to have responsibility in the classroom and around the college. The student council is increasingly influential in college decision-making. Students are well prepared for their future lives and studies through the comprehensive work-related learning programme and the development of good computer skills.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are satisfactory overall. Whilst there are examples of good and outstanding teaching that successfully engage students in their learning, the pattern across the college remains too variable. There is much to be achieved by the sharing of best practice across the college.
In weaker lessons seen, whilst some teachers managed students effectively and built good relationships, their planning of what was to be learned was not sharp enough. Teaching was not always supported by robust assessment that ensured work was well matched to the learning needs of all students. As a result, the pace of learning suffered and students did not always make the progress they should. The college has recognised these weaknesses in teaching through its more rigorous evaluation and also external review and is taking action to improve this.
In the most successful lessons seen the range of teaching methods and resources were well matched to students' needs, ensuring they made good progress. Where teaching was good or better, assessment, marking and student self-assessment were used well to help students improve their work. Relationships were strong and lessons conducted at a lively pace. Teachers made good use of questioning to challenge students and check their understanding. Consequently, in these lessons students were confident learners and enjoyed their work.
Curriculum and other activities
Curricular provision in the context of this small college is good. Review and evaluation have led to improvement in choices at Key Stage 4 with a range of vocational courses matched to the diverse needs of students. Links with other secondary schools are effective in helping to broaden the range of subjects on offer for Years 10 and 11. Links with another local college have facilitated a joint bid for a Diploma course. The recently introduced vocational course in construction has proved popular and motivating for students.
There are plans to improve the use of form time for citizenship and personal education from next year. An alternative curriculum for those students who become disinterested and at risk of underachieving will also operate from September 2008. The college's specialist performing arts status is well led and is successfully raising the profile of the arts. Visiting artists and performers enhance provision, for example in dance. A good range of opportunities exists both within and beyond the college for students to develop their artistic and performing skills. The band is popular and effective in engaging students' interest. In Years 7 to 9, a full range of subjects meets national expectations. Students appreciate the improved range of subjects on offer but would like more sports activities and opportunities in which to participate and achieve beyond the college day.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are satisfactory overall, with care and nurture for students' welfare being good. Pastoral teams both care for and support students well. Statutory requirements for safeguarding students are met. The college has recently commissioned a review of health and safety and identified a number of aspects for improvement.
The college's inclusiveness is reflected in its concern and endeavour to work closely with external agencies to improve opportunities for all students. Each Year 9 student benefits from a personal interview as part of the support offered towards making positive educational and vocational decisions for their future courses. Support for students who find learning difficult for a variety of reasons is effective in engaging the interest of a significant number who have been unsuccessful in other schools. Support and guidance for students as they consider their options after the age of 16 are good. Students are well known and feel safe in college. Care for their well-being is a strong feature, promoting supportive relationships between staff and students.
However, the tracking of students' academic progress and the use of this information are inconsistent. Students know their current levels of attainment but do not always receive enough guidance from helpful marking in order to improve. Some excellent practice exists, for example, in mathematics, history and information and communication technology, but this is inconsistent across all subjects. The college is beginning to use data as a tool that will allow teachers to track achievement as students move through the college. This is developing securely and has the potential to inform teaching and learning in order to move students on more quickly, but has not had sufficient time to impact significantly on academic progress.
Leadership and management
The newly appointed principal provides clear vision and direction for the work of the college. Since September, he has accurately evaluated its work and set about tackling the areas for improvement with vigour. He has not flinched from the challenges posed by this and is resolute in his pursuit of improved standards and achievement. The changes made are recognised by parents, the vast majority of whom are supportive of the college's work. A considerable number commented on the improvements, including the renewed focus on improving standards. The comment, 'The effort of staff and pupils to make a dramatic improvement is working,' is typical.
The restructuring of the management team has been carefully considered and early indications are that senior colleagues share the principal's resolve to raise standards and achievement, whilst retaining the established strength in effective care and guidance of students.
The senior team and governors have a clear and secure view of the college's strengths and weaknesses. Self-evaluation is, therefore, largely accurate.
The priority to raise standards and achievement has been widely shared with all staff. They speak of this year's drive to improve academic results as 'strenuous'. There is a willingness to secure external support when appropriate to facilitate this.
The current renewed focus on improving systems for tracking students' performance through the careful monitoring of data is essential to the college's improvement plan. However, whilst this analysis of performance data is developing securely, the systematic use of this in planning future work is inconsistent across all subjects.
Improved systems for monitoring teaching and learning have been introduced. Consequently, senior leaders generally have a secure view of the quality of these. The college is aware that despite key strengths, the overall quality of teaching and learning is still too variable and there are inconsistencies to eliminate, in order for them to be consistently good. The management of staff performance is robust.
Middle leadership is satisfactory. There is commitment and understanding evident from some subject leaders in driving forward improvements, but some inconsistencies remain in practice and this is a challenge for the college to face.
The governing body are effective. They have an increasingly accurate understanding of the college's work and issues for action. They demonstrate a close working partnership with the new principal in implementing the agreed improvement strategy and are committed and hardworking in the execution of their duties.