The inspection was carried out by an Additional Inspector.
Description of the school
Wodensborough pupil referral unit (PRU) is part of a collaboration that includes the six secondary schools in the north of the authority. The PRU is co-located on a site with one of these secondary schools. It opened in September 2007 and has therefore only been operating for just over two terms at the time of the inspection. The PRU takes pupils full time who have been permanently excluded from a school and on a part-time basis pupils who are at risk of exclusion. Pupils come from a range of social and economic backgrounds, many of which have high levels of disadvantage.
Overall effectiveness of the school
Wodensborough has quickly become a good PRU and an important provision for the local authority in supporting pupils at risk of failing to access secondary education. The PRU is very clear about its purpose and has set up an effective organisation to achieve this. This has resulted in almost all pupils admitted after being permanently excluded from a mainstream setting being able to return to a new secondary school. In addition, those pupils who attend on a part-time basis are being well supported to help them keep their school places. To have achieved the success it has in its first year is testament to good leadership and management. The headteacher has been at the forefront of this in establishing a staff team with a shared vision for the PRU to be effective. The management committee has only recently been established but has a full understanding of the need to develop its role in supporting and monitoring the work of the PRU.
Staff have a shared vision for the PRU's development and this means that as soon as pupils start at the PRU they know that staff want them to achieve and be able to return to a mainstream setting. Good links with other agencies contribute to the success of this, although the PRU recognises it could be even more effective if it had opportunities to continue to work with pupils while they settle into their new schools.
The quality of teaching and learning is good. It is characterised by high expectations for pupils to work and behave well in lessons. Aspirations for achievement are high; this is linked to good assessment, and monitoring arrangements to ensure staff are aware of the progress pupils are making. The curriculum is good, not just because it covers all the subjects expected of a PRU, but because there is a clear emphasis on providing pupils with opportunities to learn how to get on with each other and be better prepared to cope with the demands placed upon them by a mainstream setting.
Good care, support and guidance are giving pupils increased confidence and bringing about improvements to their achievements both academically and in relation to their personal development. Excellent displays of pupils' work throughout the unit further enhance pupils' improved self-esteem. Weekly monitoring of pupils' performance means that interventions, when required, are promptly initiated. All of this results in pupils' achievement and their personal development being good.
Understandably, the PRU has yet to formally evaluate its effectiveness over time, although it has collated good data on individual pupils' achievements, attendance and behaviour. This, in turn, has been well used to set pupils individual challenging targets. This means it is now in a position to set challenging whole-school targets for its second year and onwards.
What the school should do to improve further
Achievement and standards
Because of previous difficulties pupils have had accessing education, understandably, standards are below average. Achievement, though, is good. Their good progress is demonstrated by almost all making good improvement in their reading. Monitoring records also show that most pupils make good progress in numeracy and information and communication technology. This good progress is demonstrated by the ability of pupils to return or remain in a secondary school, which is a significant achievement, given their previous difficulties. Pupils' achievements are recorded to show their progress and challenging individual targets are a strong motivating factor.
Personal development and well-being
Pupils' good spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is reflected in the increased awareness pupils have of the world around them. The ability of many to cope with their first ever visit to a theatre and the participation of pupils in the many activities off site are examples of this.
Attendance was often an issue for many pupils prior to joining the PRU. Records for almost all pupils show that this is no longer the situation and attendance is now good. They say that they are enjoying being in the PRU and feel safe. Pupils' improved behaviour has a positive impact on their learning and therefore on their chances of being successful back in a mainstream setting. Their future economic well-being is enhanced well by the improvements they make in literacy and numeracy and their increased ability to access the support of other agencies, such as the youth offending team and Connexions. Pupils state that they enjoy opportunities to make their views known through joining panels, such as one recently set up to plan the application for a Healthy Schools award. Pupils display a good understanding of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and participate enthusiastically in physical education activities.
Quality of provision
Teaching and learning
The PRU has quickly established a positive learning environment where pupils know they are expected to work and behave appropriately in lessons. Classrooms are purposeful with excellent displays of pupils' work. Typically, lessons are well planned with a focus on pupils staying on task and recognising the progress they are making. Work undertaken is based on the knowledge staff have gained on pupils through assessments made when they first join the PRU. Support is positive even if it means highlighting to a pupil that they have not achieved as well as they should. A written comment in a pupil's book, 'Disappointing because I know you can do better', is an example of this approach. Teachers and support staff are developing their working practices to ensure that support staff are always fully aware of how they can best support each pupil.
Curriculum and other activities
The curriculum has been well thought out to ensure that pupils are well prepared to return to mainstream. Learning opportunities are available in all the subjects expected in a PRU and a good emphasis is placed on helping pupils adopt healthy lifestyles through participation in physical education and work in personal, social and health education. Good links are being developed with each secondary school to balance the work part-time pupils do in the PRU with lessons back in mainstream. Providing intensive support to help improve pupils' reading has been a key focus in this first year and, whilst this has resulted in almost all pupils making good progress, more work is planned to improve this further.
A key feature of the activities each day is the opportunities created for pupils to learn to relate appropriately with each other. For example, at breaks, staff successfully support pupils to join in board games and, as a result, they develop a good understanding of taking turns and accepting defeat, as well as success.
Care, guidance and support
Appropriate arrangements are in place to ensure that pupils are safe both at the PRU and on activities off site. Good relationships have been established with the partnership secondary schools and the local authority recognises that this is having a very positive impact on the ability of many pupils to remain in education. However, once a pupil has returned to a secondary school, the PRU is not in a position to consolidate its work by continuing to support the pupil settle back into the routines of a mainstream setting.
Guidance for both academic and personal development is regular and effective. A weekly check on each pupil's performance is supported by a regularly updated colour-coded list of pupils' progress. This shows those in the green who are becoming ready to return full time to mainstream and those in the red where further intervention is needed to get them back on track. Weekly challenging individual targets are set and displayed and all staff work well with pupils in their efforts to achieve these. A good range of specialist staff, including a mentor and counsellor, provide pupils with additional support to deal with personal issues that may arise.
Leadership and management
Undoubtedly, the headteacher has played a key role in the rapid development of the PRU's effectiveness. This rapid development demonstrates the PRU's good capacity to improve further. His vision for the role of the PRU has helped it achieve its aim of being a vital part of the local authority's provision for pupils in danger of failing to access education. His high quality leadership has created a strong team ethos within the unit, which is ensuring consistency in working practices, which, in turn, is bringing about the many positive outcomes there are for pupils. It is obviously early days for the PRU to have fully in place a clear process to formally evaluate its effectiveness over time. Nevertheless, self-evaluation has developed well within a very short time period, with key priorities identified and acted upon, including establishing close links with partner schools. A good start has been made in the collation and analysis of data on pupils' achievements and in the introduction of weekly targets for each pupil.
An appropriate management committee has been established with good representation from the partnership schools. Plans have been made for the committee to monitor the PRU and these need to be implemented to ensure that the committee fully meets its expected brief.