The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector.
Description of the school
This is a small rural school serving Vernham Dean and nearby villages. The area is mainly affluent. Almost all pupils are white, the vast majority from British backgrounds. As they start school, children's attainment is generally above average. The proportion of pupils with learning difficulties is below average.
Overall effectiveness of the school
This is a good school. Pupils are happy and achieve well as a result of good teaching. Underpinned by excellent relationships, the school's pastoral care is outstanding. The vast majority of parents are very happy with the school, finding staff approachable, committed and supportive. Pupils' personal development is outstanding. With very few exceptions, they thoroughly enjoy all the school has to offer. The school's promotion of equal opportunities for all is outstanding. It has excellent links with support agencies, which provide individual help for pupils with behavioural and emotional difficulties. Nurtured within the school's Christian ethos, pupils develop a strong sense of fairness, justice and tolerance. They make a good contribution to the school and are very well prepared for the next stage in learning and for later life.
Children make good progress in the Foundation Stage and reach standards above those expected by the end of Reception. Pupils continue to achieve very well through the school. The standards reached by Year 6 pupils are above and often well above average. More able pupils and those with particular gifts and talents achieve very well because teachers set challenging work and monitor their progress carefully. Pupils with learning difficulties generally meet or exceed their individual targets because of the effective support they receive. Teachers provide good feedback to pupils during lessons and through marking, and set targets for improvement. To some extent pupils review their own individual progress, but this is not well established enough to make a significant impact on their achievement.
An innovative and stimulating curriculum engages pupils' interests and ensures that they are well motivated and keen to learn. Planning in all subjects is very good, some shortages in computer equipment constrain learning information and communication technology (ICT). There is a good balance between the teaching of key skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT, and providing opportunities for pupils to apply and extend these in a range of subjects. Learning is enriched by extensive creative and sporting activities.
The headteacher leads with vision and determination. Systems for checking on the school's effectiveness and planning improvements are well established. This means that the leadership team has a very clear view of where action might be taken to further strengthen provision. Strong teamwork, shared values and a collegiate approach to planning for improvement are all contributory factors in moving the school forward. It is very well placed to improve further.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure that pupils are clear about their individual goals and what they need to do attain them.
- Acquire the equipment necessary to teach pupils about control technology and the use of computer sensors.
Achievement and standards
Pupils achieve very well through the school and reach above average standards. In Reception, children successfully build on their secure start, meeting or exceeding the expected levels by the end of the year. By the time they start Year 1, they are confident learners with good social, language and mathematical skills. Pupils make very good progress through Years 1 to 6 and standards have been consistently above average in recent years. The proportion of Year 2 pupils reaching the higher levels in writing and mathematics was twice the national average in 2006. Year 6 results in English were well above average. Eleven of the 14 pupils reached the higher levels in English and about half the pupils did so in mathematics and science. The few pupils with learning difficulties in both Year 2 and 6 outperformed those in other schools. Results of the most recent assessments indicate a very similar picture this year. Good work is also evident in art and design, design technology, music and aspects of ICT.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils enjoy learning and attendance rates are high. Almost all pupils have exemplary attitudes to school. A few pupils have difficulty in behaving well because of their social and emotional immaturity. Some parents expressed concerns about the impact of these pupils on their own children but pupils say they feel safe in school and are confident that they can turn to staff if they have any concerns. All pupils got along well during the inspection. Pupils have an excellent grasp of what constitutes a healthy diet and know that exercise is good for them. Their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is outstanding overall. Pupils' strong sense of responsibility is seen in the spontaneous support they give one another. This starts early, as five-year-olds act as 'buddies' to new pupils. Pupils respond compassionately to disaster appeals and suggest ideas themselves for charity events; as one put it, 'We help people not as fortunate as us'. Pupils gain a good understanding of cultural diversity by taking part in school and local events which have multicultural themes. Pupils' excellent moral and spiritual development is evident from the respect they show one another and their obvious joy in creative activities.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning are good. Teachers plan a range of interesting activities for pupils of different abilities. Consequently, the vast majority of pupils concentrate well and are keen to take part. They discuss their ideas sensibly in pairs and express themselves clearly when answering questions. Teachers and support staff are particularly skilful in enabling the few pupils who find it difficult to behave well to focus on their work. This minimises the impact of their distracting behaviour on other pupils. Teachers use assessment information well, enabling a fine grain diagnosis of pupils' needs. This means that pupils of all abilities are set appropriately demanding work. Teachers increasingly set class and group targets, and encourage pupils to reflect on their own work. There is more to be done to fully develop this so that individual pupils are clear about their personal goals and what they need to do to attain them.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum is good with outstanding features. Pupils enjoy a lively and stimulating curriculum which promotes their academic and personal development. An excellent emphasis on literacy and numeracy is not at the expense of subjects such as art and music. A commitment to an all-round education is at the heart of the school's work. A particular strength is the way in which pupils can work with a higher or lower year group if this is appropriate for their stage of development. Those with special gifts and talents are provided for well. About a third of pupils are learning an instrument and there is an excellent range of opportunities for pupils with sporting talents. Many educational visits make learning real and enjoyable for pupils. One recalled his 'amazing view' of Osmington Bay during a residential trip; another marvelled at the objects she had seen during a museum visit. Older pupils spontaneously turn to ICT to find information or make presentations but a lack of suitable resources hampers their work in control technology and the use of computer sensors. There is no suitable space for indoor physical education, despite the school's continuing efforts to obtain one.
Care, guidance and support
Care, guidance and support are good overall. A key feature of the school is how well teachers know pupils. The high level of care and support given to pupils contributes significantly to their enjoyment and eagerness to learn. Parents are mostly confident that children are safe and well cared for in school. One commented, 'The staff are dedicated and caring. The school is a very friendly place'. The school strikes an effective balance between supporting pupils with specific behavioural or emotional problems and ensuring other pupils are free to learn. This is entirely in keeping with the values expressed in its mission statement '... to provide each child with the skills for living, inspiring them to reach their full potential...' and reflects an excellent commitment to inclusion. Close links with external agencies mean that extra support is available whenever necessary. Teachers provide good feedback in their marking and pupils' academic achievement is tracked carefully. Staff are broadly aware of the progress made by pupils with behavioural and emotional problems and have frequent discussions about them. However, records are not specific enough about how they have improved over time and the next small steps they need in order to make further progress.
Leadership and management
Leadership and management are good. The headteacher has a clear vision for the school. He has the confidence of staff, governors and parents, and is popular with pupils. The school evaluates its performance accurately. Rigorous analysis of data means that potential areas for improvement are identified. This has proved effective in spotting trends and addressing any gaps in pupils' learning. All staff have additional responsibilities and carry them out well. Their collaborative work in revising the curriculum has been extremely effective in providing creative, stimulating and cohesive activities for pupils. Governors visit regularly to observe lessons and meet staff so they are able to form an increasingly accurate view of strengths and weaknesses. They are active in contributing ideas and asking pertinent, probing questions. Governors are rightly reviewing the criteria which they use to judge the school's effectiveness in order to ensure that provision for all aspects of pupils' personal development and well-being are systematically evaluated.