The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector. The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues. • Provision for the development of children’s reading and writing skills in the Nursery to Year 2. • The influence of teaching and academic guidance on pupils’ progress in all years. • The quality of pupils’ personal development and well-being. Evidence was gathered from the school’s data on pupils’ progress; visits to lessons and scrutiny of pupils’ work; observation of worship; discussions with staff, governors, parents and pupils; and analysis of responses to the parents’ questionnaire. Other aspects of the school’s work were not investigated in detail but the inspector found no evidence to suggest that the school’s own assessments of these areas, as given in its self-evaluation, were not justified, and these have been included where appropriate in this report.
Description of the school
Pupils in this large primary school are from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds. About a third are of White British backgrounds. Around half the pupils from other ethnic backgrounds have English as an additional language. Many are at an early stage of learning English when they start school. About a tenth of pupils are asylum seekers or refugees. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below average. The percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals is more than double the national average. The amount of movement of pupils in and out of the school other than at the usual times of joining or leaving is higher than in most schools. Taking the intake as a whole, children start in the Nursery with attainment well below the level expected for their age. Many children have particularly weak skills in communication, language and literacy.
The school has a significant number of awards in recognition of its work. These include the Basic Skills award, Artsmark Gold, the Activemark and Healthy Schools status. The school has very recently become a National School of Creativity.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is an outstanding school, highly praised by pupils and their parents. Pupils enjoy school tremendously. As one commented, 'We enjoy school so much that we want to take it home with us.' Another said, 'It's the best school ever. People cry because they don't want to leave.' One parent, reflecting the views of many, observed that, 'I wouldn't want my child to go to any other school.'
At the heart of the school's success is the way in which the dedicated and highly effective headteacher, staff and governors value each child as an individual. Pupils are taught that each one of them has special gifts and talents. The school sets out to nurture what each child does well to help them to realise their full potential. The result is that pupils have high self-esteem and are exceptionally well prepared for their future lives. The pupils themselves say that, 'All adults try their best for us. It's not just learning, it's confidence building.' Pupils and parents recognise that the overall quality of teaching is outstanding. Almost all teaching is good, and much is excellent, which means that its cumulative impact on learning is exceptional.
By the end of Year 6, pupils achieve extremely well in relation to their starting points and capabilities. Having entered the Nursery with low skills, particularly in language and literacy, pupils reach above average standards at the end of Year 6. When pupils leave the school, they are particularly competent in speaking, listening, reading and writing. The areas of most significant weakness on entry are transformed into substantial strengths. The most rapid gains in reading and writing are made in Years 3 to 6. A good foundation in reading and writing is laid in the Nursery to the end of Year 2. Building on this, the school recognises that it is vital to keep a firm focus on improving pupils' competence in literacy during these early years to get standards up even more quickly.
Not only do pupils make excellent progress in English and mathematics but they also increase their knowledge and understanding of the world significantly. They make substantial gains in their understanding of science, history and geography. The exceptionally broad, stimulating and creative curriculum ensures that pupils also have opportunities to excel in sports, the arts and information and communication technology. The standard of gymnastics, dance and music is very high and a joy to experience. From an early age, pupils develop real confidence in using computers and other new technology. This is evident, for example, in the high standard of older pupils' use of mobile learning devices, their confidence in making podcasts, and in the ease with which pupils in Year 1 use laptop computers.
Pupils' personal development and well-being, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, are exceptional. Pupils are extremely well motivated and industrious in lessons. As one parent pointed out, 'The teachers are very in tune with the pupils' needs and seem to be respected by the pupils because of this.' Behaviour is excellent, not only in lessons but also around the school and when pupils are at play. A pupil who is a prefect observed that, 'Prefects write down the names of people who have misbehaved and there are hardly ever any names to write down.'
Pupils are delightful young people. They are courteous, polite and very considerate towards others. They say that there is no bullying or racism in school and that, 'We are taught to treat other people as we would like to be treated.' They make a huge contribution to the school and wider community, for example through the school council, by diligently undertaking responsibilities and by raising funds for charities.
Pupils have an extremely good understanding of how to stay fit, healthy and safe. They know a good deal about the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. They value the many opportunities for physical fitness in lessons, during extra-curricular activities and through the provision of equipment such as skipping ropes at lunchtimes. Pupils feel very safe in school and say, 'Teachers make us laugh and look after us.' They are sure that the school is a very secure place to be.
Pupils thrive not only because of highly effective teaching and a wonderful curriculum, but also because the quality of care, guidance and support is outstanding. Pastoral care and support is of the highest quality and this begins with the arrangements for settling children into the Nursery and Reception Year. As one Reception Year teacher said, 'There is a focus on ensuring children are valued, loved and respected for who they are.' Academic guidance is consistently good across the school, and often outstanding in Years 3 to 6, helping pupils to know what they are doing well and how to improve their work. Pupils as young as those in Year 2 can talk about the level they have reached in writing and what they need to do to move up a level.
Not only is this school already tremendously successful in numerous ways, but it is also striving to become better. It is taking the right action to raise standards further, including early skills in reading and writing. Self-evaluation is thorough, accurate and incisive and the school has an outstanding capacity to become even more effective.
Effectiveness of the Foundation Stage
Children make good progress in the Nursery and Reception Years because teaching and the curriculum are good. As a result, standards are below, rather than well below, the level expected when children transfer to Year 1. From the moment they start in the Nursery, children move on in leaps and bounds in their personal, social, speaking and listening skills because of the high level of attention given to these areas. Children's knowledge and understanding of the world develops well through many stimulating opportunities to explore and investigate indoors and outside during their time in the Nursery. In the Reception Year, children are enthused by the new forest area in the school grounds where, for example, they discover minibeasts and their habitats. Staff recognise that, although children make good gains in early reading and writing, these remain main areas to improve to make up more rapidly for many children's low skills on entry.
What the school should do to improve further
- Keep a firm focus on the development of reading and writing skills in the Nursery to Year 2.