The inspection was carried out by three Additional Inspectors.
Description of the school
This is a larger than average primary school serving an area of very high social deprivation. The proportion of pupils eligible for a free school meal is well above average. There is a well above average number of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Some pupils are taught in mixed age classes to cater for their learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Pupils are from predominantly White British backgrounds and very few require support for learning English as an additional language. The school has a higher than average proportion of pupils who leave or join it at other than the usual times. There are plans for a children’s centre to open in September 2008.
Overall effectiveness of the school
The Parks Primary School is a satisfactory school with some good features. The school provides a good quality of care in a supportive atmosphere resulting in good personal development. Pupils enjoy school. They make satisfactory progress in developing the skills they need to support their future learning. Teaching is satisfactory and good behaviour is a key feature of lessons. The best lessons have a brisk pace, are well planned and engage the pupils throughout so that they make good progress. Occasionally teachers take too long explaining to pupils what they have to do and this slows their progress.
Pupils’ achievement is satisfactory. Although standards are well below average when pupils leave school most pupils have made satisfactory progress from their exceptionally low starting points. The use of a more active and practically based curriculum that meets the needs of all children has helped improve progress in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 particularly. Staff are planning and working keenly to develop this approach in Key Stage 2. The nurture groups are a strong feature of the school. These are small classes of pupils from different age groups that provide more focused support for those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. As a result progress is effectively rising across the school. The school recognises more needs to be done to further raise standards.
Pupils feel safe and there is a ‘buddy’ system so that pupils can help others when they feel upset. The school council has been active in influencing the school to develop a ‘trim trail’. This, along with organised play activities at break and lunchtimes, makes a good contribution to the health of pupils. A popular breakfast club encourages a healthy start to the day and this continues with fruit and vegetables provided for all pupils. The school has good community links and successfully encourages pupils to become involved in community initiatives. However, the curriculum does not help children learn sufficiently about the wide diversity of British culture. Parents appreciate the dedication of the staff and say they are ‘happy with the school as it does a good job’. A ‘stay and play’ initiative in Foundation Stage is well supported by parents and they say ‘it helps us understand what our children are doing in school and support them more at home’.
Leadership and management are satisfactory. The good leadership of the headteacher has promoted a calm working atmosphere in which pupils and teachers are able to focus on raising standards. Recent improvements to assessment systems and the curriculum are helping to raise standards. However, the school’s plans for improvement do not always identify sharply enough how the actions taken will impact on pupils’ achievement and personal development.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Provision in the Foundation Stage (Nursery and Reception) is good, with outstanding features in the provision for outdoor learning. Children start in the Nursery with a diverse range of skills but for many, their level of development is exceptionally low for their age. Most children make good progress but many do not reach the learning goals expected for their age by the time they leave Reception. Children feel safe and through good teaching make good progress in their learning, particularly in their personal development, language skills and physical development. This is because the staff plan a wide range of interesting and challenging activities that often excite the children, including outdoors. These activities give children real choice in what they do. Leadership and management are good. Assessment procedures are thorough and used well to plan new learning.
What the school should do to improve further
A small proportion of the schools whose 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
Achievement is satisfactory. Standards in Year 6 are well below average. However, from an exceptionally low starting point when they start school, pupils make satisfactory progress. Following the good start children make in Foundation Stage, pupils make satisfactory progress from Year 1 through to Year 6. Results in national tests in 2007 for pupils aged 7 and 11 were significantly below the national average. For pupils aged 11 these results reflected satisfactory achievement and were an improvement on the 2006 results.
School data and inspection evidence confirm that standards are rising and progress is improving, particularly in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. The school recently introduced improvements to the curriculum and to tracking pupils’ progress and these changes are starting to raise standards. The successful nurture groups have begun to raise achievement especially for the pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. These pupils make satisfactory progress. The very few pupils who learn English as an additional language benefit from the caring atmosphere which raises their self-confidence to communicate and they make good progress.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils’ personal development, including their moral and social development, is good. Spiritual and cultural development is satisfactory. Pupils form good relationships with each other. They show care and consideration for everyone, including adults, and behave well. There is a key worker for pupils with behavioural difficulties who has been helpful in making the school calmer and minimising disruption. The school makes considerable effort to raise attendance and most pupils attend regularly although overall figures show attendance remains below national figures. Pupils are happy in school and discussions with pupils indicate that they enjoy practical activities and appreciate that the teachers make their lessons ‘fun.’ Pupils develop a good understanding of how to be good citizens. They talk proudly of the influence the school council has had on the installation of the ‘trim trail’ in the playground that has improved playground facilities. They show care and consideration for others in their fundraising for various charities. The pupils’ display a good awareness of how to stay healthy, fit and safe and have a secure understanding of their own local culture. Their knowledge and understanding of the multicultural nature of modern society is less developed. This feature, coupled with their current standards in basic skills, means that the pupils are satisfactorily prepared for their future lives.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are satisfactory. Lessons progress smoothly due to the good quality of relationships fostered between the staff, children and parents. Teachers use a good range of effective behaviour management techniques to help pupils concentrate on their learning. Teachers and support staff are skilful at meeting the needs of pupils who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Interventions include effective work in small groups as well as support in lessons that enable these pupils to be fully involved in all activities. Improved assessment of pupils’ progress means that in most lessons, teachers plan to meet the varying needs of different groups effectively, deploying support staff carefully to work with individuals or groups. The increasing number of pupils from minority ethnic groups is generally well-supported and those learning English as an additional language make good progress. Lessons usually flow at a satisfactory pace, although occasionally, teachers take too much time explaining what pupils are to do and the pace slows so that some become restless. Teachers’ marking of pupils’ work is accurate and helpful. However, it is not always effective because teachers sometimes do not insist that pupils follow the guidance offered. In most lessons, teachers make it clear to pupils what they are expected to learn, and encourage them to assess and comment on their own and other pupils’ work.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is a developing strength at Key Stage 1. Intensive development work has been undertaken by staff over the last two years and a large and enthusiastic group of them is now focusing on improving the curriculum for Key Stage 2. This is in order to make learning activities more engaging and appealing for pupils so that they are motivated to make better progress, as has happened for younger pupils. There is an appropriate emphasis on the core subjects of English, mathematics and science and information and communication technology. The curriculum provides well for pupils’ personal and social development and physical well-being. As a result, pupils learn effectively how to live safe and healthy lifestyles. Pupils who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities receive support when required. They are fully included in the curriculum. Opportunities for learning outside the school day are satisfactory, including links with the sports and arts facility and the community wardens.
Care, guidance and support
This is a good aspect of the school’s work. All required child protection and safeguarding procedures are in place. Staff vigilance in looking after pupils’ welfare is evident in the well managed care for Reception children, the good support for pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and the extra support for pupils joining the school at times other than the usual start. Parents say that they appreciate the caring and happy atmosphere in the school. Academic support and guidance are good. The new monitoring systems enable staff to check pupils’ progress and are used effectively to set improvement targets. Older pupils use these well and know what they need to do to improve. Whilst some pupils are involved in assessing their own and others’ work, this aspect of assessment is not yet consistent across the school. One particularly good feature is that staff set targets in other subjects, not just English, mathematics and science, and use the information well to plan new work and encourage independence in learning, particularly the Nursery and Reception and in the older classes.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are satisfactory. The headteacher’s leadership is good and is shown in the commitment across the whole school to raising achievement. Good leadership in the Foundation Stage is having a positive effect on improving progress for the younger children. Strengthened senior leadership and improved approaches to monitoring the work of the school are contributing to the school’s accurate self-evaluation. The right priorities have been identified and actions taken are leading to improvements. For example, the assessment and close tracking of pupils’ progress are helping to improve standards. Information is now available to enable the school to set challenging targets. The impact of recent changes was not seen in the 2007 results of national tests. Although pupils made satisfactory progress the school did not meet its targets. As the school starts to reap the benefit of changes they are more on track to reach their targets. Though the school’s improvement plans identify the appropriate action to take, it is not always clear how this is expected to improve the achievement or personal development of pupils. The school works well in partnership with others and parents are appreciative of the school’s efforts to involve them in the education of their children. For example, the opportunity provided to take part in the ‘Stay and Play’ initiative.
Governors are aware of the strengths and areas for improvement and discharge their duties satisfactorily. Improvement since the last inspection is satisfactory overall. There has been significant improvement in behaviour. The rate of pupils’ progress is improving but there is still more to do to raise standards further. Capacity for improvement is satisfactory but improving. Value for money is satisfactory.