The inspection was carried out by one Additional Inspector. The inspector evaluated the overall effectiveness of the school and investigated the following issues: pupils' achievements and their learning, how effectively teachers use assessment information when planning work, and the impact of the leadership and management on raising standards and improving pupils' achievements. The inspector gathered evidence from discussions with staff, pupils and governor representatives, from sampling lessons and pupils' work, and from the school's assessments of pupils' progress. 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, as given in its self-evaluation, were not justified and these have been included in the report.
Description of the school
Walmley is a large junior school that shares a site with its feeder infant school. Almost all pupils are from White British backgrounds. The proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals is much lower than seen nationally, as is the proportion with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The headteacher was appointed in September 2007.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Walmley Junior is a good school where pupils of all abilities do well. There are some significant strengths, particularly the strong pastoral support, that help to promote the excellent personal development and well-being of the pupils. Parents are overwhelmingly supportive of the school, the views of one typical of many when commenting, 'The teachers have created a well-balanced environment where children enjoy learning and are making good progress.' The pupils' comments reflect the views of their parents. They say that teachers make lessons fun and that there are 'lots of interesting things to do.' They talk about the atmosphere in the school, which indeed is warm and welcoming.
Pupils enter school with skills that are above those expected for their age. They make good progress in all year groups, so that by the end of Year 6 they are attaining standards that are well above average in the key areas of English, mathematics and science. Standards have improved significantly in writing because there has been a concerted effort by all staff to address weaknesses in this area. Writing activities are now made more interesting, exciting and relevant. This was demonstrated in a lesson where pupils were keen to be the 'hired apprentice' when they had to demonstrate their persuasive writing skills to encourage customers to buy their product. There are many opportunities for pupils to make effective use of the excellent information and communication technology (ICT) facilities so that they are very well skilled in this aspect of learning. Teachers are very good at questioning pupils, encouraging them to explain their responses. This is one of the reasons pupils speak so confidently. Teaching is consistently good and there are many examples of outstanding practice. Teachers usually make good use of day-to-day assessments to plan work so that it closely matches the needs of individual pupils and thus accelerates their progress. However, the school rightly recognises that this practice is not yet consistent throughout the school.
Pupils' personal development and well-being are excellent. Enjoyment of school is reflected in the pupils' exemplary behaviour and above-average attendance. From the time they enter school, pupils learn how to become responsible citizens and are keen to take on responsibility. The school councillors are proud of their role as play leaders for children in the infant school. They listen carefully to the concerns of their peers and are pleased that action was taken in response to their request for additional play equipment and for the implementation of a homework club. Pupils are enthusiastic in their support for those less fortunate than themselves, regularly supporting charitable activities. One of the reasons pupils achieve well is the responsibility they take for their own learning. For example, in science pupils are encouraged to use the assessment information to identify the areas in which they are less confident. From this, they draw up their own research programme which, with effective guidance from the class teacher, ensures they bridge any gaps in their learning. Regular opportunities for pupils to assess the work of their peers in writing help them to identify strengths and areas for improvement in their own work as well. Pupils make an excellent contribution to the community, for example, through their ECO work and performances by the choir at the local supermarket and nursing home.
The curriculum is varied and there is a suitable emphasis on developing the pupils' basic skills. The curriculum is enriched by an exceptionally wide range of visits, visitors and clubs that stimulates the pupils' enthusiasm and enjoyment for learning. The curriculum includes valuable opportunities for the pupils to understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and how to keep safe. Older pupils commented positively on the visit of the 'Life Caravan' that helps to improve their awareness of the dangers of drugs, smoking and alcohol. There is a very high take- up to attend the many after-school clubs; the only disappointment for some pupils was that it was difficult to choose which to attend! The curriculum prepares the pupils well for the future. There are excellent links with industry, such as those with a major car manufacturer, that provide pupils with a valuable insight into work. Wherever possible, lessons have a practical link such as when pupils are given the task of working out the first-year depreciation of a new car!
The pastoral support for the pupils is very strong, the reason they feel so safe and secure. Child protection and safeguarding procedures are rigorous and effective. The 'Early Birds' club is very well supported and both parents and children are very pleased with the before and after-school provision that is available. There is an excellent partnership with parents, who are kept very well informed as to how their children are progressing. Pupils are very aware of their targets and what they need to do next to improve. Whilst academic guidance is good overall, there are inconsistencies in how assessment is used to plan work on an individual basis.
Leadership and management are good. Since his arrival, the headteacher has gained the confidence of parents and staff, helping to maintain the happy learning environment. There is a refreshing lack of complacency and the leadership is keen to improve the school's provision further through incisive self-evaluation. To this end, improved tracking and assessment procedures have been introduced which are providing middle managers with a clearer understanding of how well the pupils are progressing. They have begun to use this information effectively, 'raising the bar' to ensure the school's challenging targets are met. The middle managers are undergoing training to improve their skills as they rightly recognise that they need to be more effective in ensuring all teachers adopt a consistent approach in using assessment to plan work for individuals. Governors support the school well and take an active role in monitoring the school's progress towards its goal of becoming 'one of the best'. The progress made by the school since the previous inspection and the enthusiasm and skills of staff show that it is well placed to make further improvements.
What the school should do to improve further
- Ensure teachers make more effective use of assessment information so that work is matched more closely to the needs of individual pupils.
- Develop the role of middle managers to enable them to become more effective in monitoring how well teachers use assessment information to plan work.