Schools

Three common traits of the best secondary schools

Three common traits of the best secondary schools

What do the best secondary schools have in common? Well the short answer is – nothing! No two schools are the same is make up or quality, which makes judging them very difficult. That is why the OFSTED reporting system is designed to compare a school against itself, rather than other schools in the locality, like a league table system would.

But, if you are looking for secondary schools around you to send your child to and want to know a little more about them, it is a good idea to try to do some comparisons between them. So, what do the best secondary schools have in common and what makes them the best?

Firstly, the best secondary schools all have good OFSTED ratings. Remember when reading an OFSTED report that you need to look at more than just the OFSTED grading (on a scale of 1 – 4, with 1 being outstanding and 4 requiring improvement). The OFSTED report displays a whole host of information which may or may not be useful to everyone, but the best 2 places to look are at the previous inspection score (to see if the school has got better, worse, or stayed the same) and the areas of improvement. This will give you a snapshot into how well that school is performing and how good it is.

Secondly, the best secondary schools all have good facilities. By good facilities, we are talking about the school buildings, the classrooms, the IT facilities, the catering facilities and the sports facilities. It is easy when trying to judge which schools are the best to focus on the teaching facilities and to make decisions based on pupil performance, but pupil performance is mainly down to your child and their willingness to learn. The best secondary schools will almost always have a good set of catering facilities, good sports facilities and teams, as well as a good IT infrastructure to teach your child more about the world of the future.

Finally, the best secondary schools do attract the best teachers. Moreover, the best teachers then stay at the schools. Think about it – teachers work on pay grades, so they are unlikely to get more money in a different school for doing the same job. The upshot is, therefore, that if they find a good school with good facilities in a location convenient for them, they aren’t going to look to leave the school in a hurry. If they are good at their job, the school maintains its standards and remains as one of the better schools in the area. Good teachers generally teach in good schools.

It can be very difficult to compare school A with school B on every ranking factor, but thinking about what makes the best secondary schools what they are gives you a good basis for making the right choice. You can decide which ranking factors (teaching; catering; sports facilities) are most important to you, and start your decision making process from there.

article source: http://hubpages.com/education/Local-Secondary-Schools

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How to choose a local secondary school

How to choose a local secondary school

Finding the best secondary school for your child is not easy. There are considerations for today, like distance from home, quality of GCSE grades, after school activities, and there are considerations for 5 years down the line, like does it have a 6th form centre, what job prospects are there and so on.

With all these considerations, finding the right local secondary schools for your children requires some serious thought, and probably some input from your children themselves. So where do you start?

Firstly, search the locality. Look around your home or their current primary school in a realistic radius. You can now begin to make a shortlist of the schools which you might consider them going to.

Next, check the OFSTED reports. This allows you to see how good the school is and what OFSTED rating it achieved at last inspection. Here you can view links to OFSTED reports for local secondary schools and see for yourself how they got on.

Next, check the transport links. You need to find out whether you can get your child safely to and from the school and if the school runs its own school bus facility for your child to get on. It is important to consider how much additional time and resource you will need each day, as there are far fewer secondary schools than primary schools, so the local secondary schools will potentially be further away from your home.

Next, think about what you want your child to achieve at school. All schools offer a range of extra-curricular activities, some more important than others. You need to consider just how important sport or social activities are to your child’s development and whether the local secondary schools you are considering offer enough scope for your child to develop in this area. For some, this will not matter at all, for others, this is a huger factor in choosing a school.

Next, consider the quality of the catering and the school meals. This subject has attracted much publicity over the last 5 years and for good reason too. School meals need to be nutritious as this will have a big impact on your child’s development and their ability to both concentrate and learn. Ask the school for a sample menu if you are not sure what the facilities are like, they should be happy to provide you with one.

Finally, when picking the right local secondary schools, look at the job prospects or the availability of a 6th form beyond the 5 or so years at that school. This may not seem important now, but it is vital to think about where you want your child to be studying or working in years to come. If they have ambitions to go to university or want to follow a certain career path then this is well worth thinking about today.

With over 9,000 local secondary schools in the UK to choose from, or more realistically 10 or so around your home, it is important to make the right choice for your child and their development. Choose well now and reap the benefits later on.

article source: http://hubpages.com/education/Local-Secondary-Schools

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How to read an OFSTED Report

How to read an OFSTED Report

OFSTED reports are standardised documents showing the ratings and recommendations from the last inspection carried out. Most people choose to focus on the overall score, a grading from 1 (Outstanding) to 4 (Requires Improvement). Some schools at level 4 can be placed in what is called Special Measures, but more on that later. This article is designed to explain how an OFSTED inspection report works and how to interpret its meaning. This will help you understand better how good your current school is, or if you are looking at moving schools, how good or otherwise other schools are.

Let’s take a look at the above OFSTED report carried out a couple of years ago and help interpret its meaning.

  1. The first piece of the report is the school’s name and address so we know we are dealing with the correct school.
  2. The second section of the report gets straight to the point and delivers the school’s score. Although in our example above there is only one rating, there will, in more established schools, be a previous inspection score as well as a current one. This allows the reader to see quickly and easily if the school has improved, got worse, or stayed broadly the same as the previous inspection. Inspections are generally held around every 3 years, with the school being given just a few days’ notice.
  3. The third section of the report gives a breakdown of how the overall score has been obtained. In this example, the school has achieved a 2 (Good) overall, however they have achieved a 1 in the leadership and management category. So, we can look at this section and compare two schools with the same overall OFSTED score in more detail to find out if they are at the top or bottom end of the category.
  4. The fourth section gives an explanation into why the school has been placed in that particular category. This section is one of the most interesting as it starts to go into a lot more depth about where the school achieved good results. This is the inspectors’ opportunity to accentuate the positives of the school and tell the OFSTED inspection reader what makes this school Good (or category 2).
  5. The final section of the report details what the school needs to do to move up to the next category. This again is useful for parents considering sending their children to the school to read, because it contains information about where the school is not doing so well. You can then decide if these problem areas are even concerns for you. It may be that the problem area is a particular subject, which you have no interest in, however quite often the improvement is recommended in behaviour control, which would be of interest to most parents. In our example the major criticism is that students aren’t being challenged enough and teachers aren’t preparing students for examinations adequately enough. They are most probably two ends of the same problem, but it gives us an insight into how close the school is to being outstanding.

OFSTED reports provide an invaluable insight into schools’ relative performance when used correctly. This guide is intended to help you understand properly how to read the report and how to apply it to your own decision making progress.

article source: http://hubpages.com/education/Local-Secondary-Schools

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Find The Best Local Schools

How do you find the best local schools?

We often get asked here what are the best local schools in a given area, or where should we send our child to get the best education. Of course we don’t really know the answer to this and aren’t in the business of handing out bad advice! We also struggle to offer advice on an individual basis because choosing a school is a personal matter. We can, as always (!), help a bit though. We wanted to tell you what we could about the best local schools in any given area. What makes them the best, how do you know they are the best, and how do they stay the best, local schools.

The anatomy of a good school

The best local schools will generally have good OFSTED scores, scoring either a 1 or a 2 overall, and at least one Outstanding in the 4 sub categories. But this doesn’t tell the true picture. As we spoke about in our blog about how to read an OFSTED report, it is important to look at the previous OFSTED result as well, not just the most recent. Inspections are carried out generally every 3 years, so you can build up a picture of how the school has progressed over time. The best local schools either maintain good or outstanding scores, or show an improvement from category 3 to category 1 or 2.

The best local schools will also generally have the best facilities. We have spoken about this in more depth previously as well, but it is a fair assumption that the better the facilities, the better the school. You can see this yourself when you walk around the schools on the open days. Check out the science labs, the catering facilities and the sports pitches. Consider the transport links and the age of the buildings. The best local schools will look aesthetically nice. A word of warning though – don’t forget, a brand new build academy will always look sparkling – you will need to delve a little deeper here to look into how good it is – it may be a new academy because it was a failing comprehensive school previously!

Maintaining the reputation

So the school looks nice today, and it has a good reputation and good OFSTED results. However, your child is going to the school for the next 5 years, so how do the best local schools maintain their reputation as the best? Well, every school, as previously alluded to, has regular OFSTED inspections which encourage them to maintain a level of quality within the school. Senior management take full responsibility for the failings of the school and so have a big incentive (together with professional pride) to maintain their status and be amongst the best local schools.

The best schools also attract the best people. They attract the best teachers, and in many instances the best pupils. Provided senior management continue to market the school well and keep up standards within the school, the school itself will prosper. Picking the best local schools in the first place will ensure your child is in the best possible place long term.

article source: http://hubpages.com/education/Local-Secondary-Schools

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How to find a school that’s right for your child

How to find a school that’s right for your child

There comes a point when every parent goes through the process to find a school for their child. It can be a difficult process – you might have a different opinion on choice of schools than your child; you may be moving to a new area; or you may be looking at an independent, fee paying school for your child. Whatever the scenario, help is on hand to ensure you find the right school where your child is happy.

So we have put together some general advice to help you not just find a school, but to find the right school.

Moving area – finding a school in an area you are not familiar with can be very tricky, especially given the amount of assistance given by existing primary schools to get their pupils into the right secondary school. The best place to begin is by making a shortlist of schools in the area you are moving to, you can do a postcode search here. Once you have your list, contact them and find out when they are open for you to go and visit. The whole process can then be broken down into a simple, enjoyable exercise for you and your child.

Find an independent school – if you are looking for an independent school for your child then your options will become much narrower. Outside of major towns and cities there are often only a handful of independent, fee paying schools to choose from and you may already know what these are. Independent schools will always have open days or open evenings where you can call in and take a look around to see if it is right for you. As they are fewer in number, it is likely you will need to use the school’s transport service to get your child to and from school each day, so check where this stops and picks up in relation to your home.

Find a school with good OFSTED ratings – OFSTED ratings work on a numbered rating from 1 to 4, with 1 being the best (Outstanding) and 4 being the worst (Needs improvement). A school in category 4 will sometimes be put in what is known as Special Measures, meaning it has outside assistance from the local authority to try to improve, and the senior management team can be replaced if they are deemed to be ineffective. Whatever the scenario, every schools’ OFSTED rating is published online and can be viewed for free, so always go and take a look to find out more and use them to help you find a school.

Find a school your child is in disagreement with – quite often you will have a differing opinion than your child’s. This will almost certainly be the case when you come to find a school for them. They may favour a school where their friends go, or which has the best sports team, or is nearest your home, whereas these may be the schools with the worst OFSTED ratings, or the worst transport links, which you (rather more sensibly!) deem less adequate.

Finding a school is often a very simple process but for some there are a few more hurdles to overcome. When there are, help is at hand from a variety of sources to make sure you find a school your child is happy at.

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How to search schools when moving to a new area

How to search schools when moving to a new area

Sometimes the search for a school can carry slightly more issues than normal, and this is particularly the case if you are moving to a new area. You may be moving jobs, or moving back to the place you grew up – whatever the scenario, you are left with the task of searching for schools in a new area you may not necessarily be familiar with. So, how do you begin to search schools in the area?

  1. Do some research – the first place to begin to search schools in a different location is from the comfort of your own home, on your computer (or tablet or phone!). If you are reading this article then chances are you have access to the internet, so start by having a good look around at what is available on a map of the local area. There may only be a couple of schools which are suitable, there may be a lot, but you can do some research into the schools, check the OFSTED ratings and get yourself a shortlist of schools from where to begin.
  2. Go on visits – now you have a list of searched schools (or school!) you are considering, contact them and see firstly if they have open days or evenings, and if not see if they will show you around anyway. The chances are they will. Keep an open mind and be prepared to ask plenty of questions. It is a good idea to note your questions down before you go, to ensure that you ask the same questions at each school. This way you will end the process with a fair reflection of every school.
  3. Discuss with your child – if you are going to search schools in a location other than where you live then it is a good idea to discuss the options with your child as well. They will have an opinion of their own, and after all they are the ones who are going to be attending on a daily basis, so you may as well try to make them happy. They can probably help you search schools and research them anyway, so try to get them involved from the beginning.
  4. Visit again if needs be – if you were left with a bigger choice than you thought and have been on visits which have been useful, then don’t be afraid to go and visit some of them again. You may get a different vibe second time around, you may spot things you didn’t spot at first, or you may be able to go on a school day as opposed to a structured open evening which is designed to show the school off.
  5. Remember you can always move – finally, when you start to search schools in another area it is important to remember not to get too concerned about making the perfect choice. If you do make a bad choice, then you can always move. You are not tied in forever so don’t worry about it too much. If your child comes home after a week and they are really not settling in, or likely to settle in, then be open minded and start your school search again, it isn’t a bad thing, you could never have known.

The search for schools is not a difficult process if managed correctly, so remember to do your research properly before you begin, visit the schools, and chat to your child about them. More than anything, don’t get too concerned, picking the right school first time is important but not irreversible if you get it wrong.

article source: http://hubpages.com/education/Local-Secondary-Schools

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Local Secondary Schools

Help – there are no suitable schools near me!

Well, there probably are. You just don’t know how to find them. And your version of suitable and someone else’s version of suitable may just be totally different. Consider these 4 different parents and let’s ask them all the same question about the suitability of the local secondary schools.

Parents 1 – their child is an outstanding learner and keen to embark on a successful career.

There are plenty of suitable schools near me because…our child will adapt to any situation in any school because their primary focus in on learning. They will probably be in the top set for a lot of their studies and so be with like-minded pupils, so in reality, as long as the teaching is good, then any of the schools near me can be branded as satisfactory for our child. They will also study on their own at home so I know they will succeed regardless. We attach greater importance to A-levels and University anyway so the choice of secondary school is not concerning us.

Parents 2 – their child is heavily into sport and is keen to do well in their GCSE’s.

There are plenty of suitable schools near me because…our child is never going to be an outstanding learner with 10 A grade GCSE’s, so we are not prepared to put added pressure on them by insisting they go to the very best school. We are also not of the mind that any school will do, so we are going to involve them in our choice of nearby school safe in the knowledge that they will be happy. As long as they are happy, they will study hard and enjoy their sport and develop a good group of friends. This is the most important consideration for us and means that there are plenty of suitable schools near to where we live.

Parents 3 – their child is intelligent and they are very well off.

There are plenty of suitable schools near me because…we will be sending our child to an independent, fee paying school and we will have a choice of them, so we are not overly concerned about finding the right one. We would assume that the schools are of a good standard and the OFSTED ratings are good, and if we are not content with the school, we will look to move them elsewhere. Whatever the scenario, we are really confident there are plenty of suitable schools near to where we live from which to choose.

Parents 4 – their child has a solid group of friends in their current primary school.

There are plenty of suitable schools near me because…our child will want to follow their friends wherever they go. Even if we don’t think the school is as good as we would like, so long as our child is with their friends and is happy, they will be more likely to study hard for their exams and do well at school. Plus, schools change over time, good ones go bad, and bad ones improve, so we are keeping an open mind based on their 5 years of secondary school, not the next 6 months. So, every school in our area could be considered suitable.

We have tried to take a small selection of pupils and their individual scenarios, if only to prove the point that there is always a suitable option, whether you first think so or not. It is best not to get too concerned about whether there are suitable schools nearby, and instead concentrate on finding the right school for your child. Remember – there are plenty of suitable schools near me!

How to find a secondary school – 4 golden nuggets

Many primary schools in the UK act as feeder schools for secondary schools and so making the choice as to which school to go to is straightforward. However, what if you want your child to go to an independent school, what if the recommended secondary school is in a location inconvenient to you, or what if you are moving to a new area and need to look at schools in that area? The process is not as tough as you may fear – finding the right secondary school for your child is pretty straightforward, if you follow the advice set out below.

  1. Do your research – the first place to go to find a school is to make a shortlist of available ones. If you are looking at independent schools or schools in a different district, put a list together of the schools which are available and start your research from there.
  2. Check the OFSTED reports – all secondary schools will have been visited by OFSTED in the last 4 years and been graded as to how well they did. OFSTED reports can be found online on their own website, whilst various comparison websites provide links to them making search easy. The report will give you a good indication as to the quality of the school and its teaching, making your quest to find a secondary school nice and easy!
  3. Go and visit the schools – if you are moving to a new area, you may want to take a day out to go and visit as many schools as you can in the local area to find out what they are like and what their admission criteria is. Physical visits can make the process of finding a secondary school so much easier as you can get a feel for whether it is the right place to send your child. Going on a school day is also advised so you can see the school in its full operation. If you are considering sending your child to an independent school, then you will be able to visit these schools on pre-arranged open days and open evenings, often held on a weekend. These can give you a great insight into the school as you will be shown all the facilities it has to offer.
  4. Speak to your children – it is your child who will spend the next 5 or more years at the school you choice so make sure you find a secondary school they are comfortable with. Nobody wants to be forced to go somewhere they don’t want to and at age 11+ they should be mature enough to assist in decision making. So talk to your children and their siblings if appropriate and take their opinions seriously – they will always come up with factors you haven’t considered.

When the time comes to find a secondary school for your child or children, help is on hand from a variety of sources. Don’t forget to listen to your children, take in their point of view, and go to some open days/evenings. You will learn a lot about the local schools and feel comfortable you have made the correct choice for them.

What 5 things will help you to search for secondary schools?

The search for the right secondary school for your son or daughter can be a difficult process. It can be straightforward, you may be fortunate enough to have a primary school which acts as a feeder school and all the details are arranged for you, but what if that isn’t the case, what if you need to make your own arrangements and do your own research. Where do you begin and what can you do to help yourself?

  1. Keep an open mind – it is really important when you begin your search for secondary schools that you keep an open mind. You may well have preconceptions about certain schools based upon their reputation, children you know that currently go there, or the quality of their sports teams. The first thing to remember is that none of these preconceptions matter. What matters is that your child gets the best possible education and to do that you need to start off by being open minded and considering all options. Don’t discount anything from the outset!
  2. Talk to the primary school – the next phase of your search for secondary schools should be to consult with your child’s primary school. They will already have schools which their children are recommended to go to, but even if these are not on your list of options (you may be leaving the area or considering an independent school) your primary school will still help you. It is their sole task to take children in at a young age, and prepare them for the next stage of their education, so they will always assist you to search for a secondary school.
  3. Consider what your child wants to do at GCSE/A-Level – it may seem a long way off, but it really isn’t. Your child will start their GCSE studies three years after they start at the school, and so will need an idea of their subject choices after about two and a half years. When you begin your search, remember that some schools obtain better results in some subjects than others, and indeed some schools offer different subject choices if your child’s ambitions are a little less mainstream!
  4. Talk to your child – don’t forget that it is your child who will attend the school, not you, so make sure they join in the search for a secondary school with you. What you think is an important factor may not be as important to them and vice versa, so it is important that you each come up with a list of key points and discuss them properly. They may be inclined to follow their friends but wherever they go to school, they will meet new people – they are joining a year group with about 3 – 5 times the number of children in it whether they follow their friends or not.
  5. Visit as many schools as you can – search for a secondary school by actively going to visit them. It sounds obvious, but few people take advantage of this. All secondary schools have open days or open evenings, and even if you can’t make it to one, contact the schools anyway and make your own arrangements, they will always be happy to see you if you are considering applying to go there.

The search for a secondary school can seem like a lonely process, but it needn’t be – talk to others, talk to your children, talk to their current primary school – there is more advice available than you think!

article sourced by : http://hubpages.com/education/Local-Secondary-Schools

Put A Playground On Your Christmas List

Put A Playground On Your Christmas List

With winter now here, schools should start to plan ahead for the better weather of the New Year. A new playground can really put spring in the step of children at any school. Regrettably, many schools would like to purchase new playground equipment but are unable to generate the necessary funds. Many schools would like to apply for playground equipment funding but many don’t know where to start.

Leading outdoor playground equipment suppliers have worked with schools across the UK to help them make the most of the play spaces available. They design and install playground equipment for schools, Councils and local authorities to improve the play experience for children. Playground suppliers can also help schools to gain funding for playgrounds using their years of experience in the industry.

A variety of playground funding sources are available including School fundraising events, Lottery funding and The Playground Partnership. With Christmas rapidly approaching, schools should make the most of the Christmas spirit o raise funds for playground equipment.

“Christmas is a great time for giving. Schools can take advantage of this and raise funds for playground equipment by holding a range of events such as a cake sale, Carol Service, raffle or bring and buy. This is a win-win for the school as parents, people from the community and school children can all get involved to help raise money for a great cause” said a spokesperson for playground supplier Playforce.

Outdoor playground equipment suppliers are currently offering a free playground funding ideas factsheet for schools across the UK. “Many schools need to get help funding their playgrounds but many don’t know where to start. We’ve got years of experience working with schools and have condensed our knowledge into an easy to read factsheet”

The factsheet also gives advice on how to prioritise playground funding campaigns, how to develop a playground strategy and include all stakeholders in the development projects. The advice for playground funding applicants is that “It is important that schools take the time to make their playground funding applications specific to the awarding body. We have found that a lot of schools use the same applications again and again and fail to get the result they want. The single biggest factor in making applications successful is to do research. If schools put the time in with their applications, they are more likely to get their applications approved.”

The factsheet can be downloaded online from the Playforce website, this also provides further information about playground equipment. There is a listing of outdoor children’s playground equipment which can also be provided, as well as other resources which are available for schools. “For schools looking to improve their holistic approach to play, we now offer additional advice and supporting documents. Schools now have many things to consider when looking at how to improve play in the community such as inclusion, Disability Discrimination Act compliance and travel planning. We have put together publications, guides and teaching supports to help schools when thinking about play”

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Historic Ofsted Report 2004 on Our School

PART A: Summary of the Report

school-6“This is a very effective school. The leadership has outstanding features and is highly influential beyond the school. It does very well for its children and is particularly successful with those who have special educational needs. People matter at this school and the key to its success is the commitment of staff and governors to provide for all aspects of children’s development. This is an exciting place to be and the committed teaching, innovative curriculum and purposeful leadership are the main reasons that children achieve as well as they do.” p.4

PART B: Commentary on the Main Inspection Findings
Pupil’s attitudes, values & other personal qualities
• Children have very positive attitudes to the school and their work because the relationships throughout the school are excellent and they want to please their teachers.
• Behaviour is good as the school sets very high expectations for children’s conduct and teachers are very good at managing them.
• The good attendance is a considerable achievement because children are willing to come without the promise of reward.
• Overall the school makes excellent provision for children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, which has a very positive impact on their personal development.
14. The children view their school as a safe, happy place. They enjoy coming to school and have very good attitudes to learning, responding well to the range of interesting and worthwhile activities.
18. Teaching and learning takes place in a context of strong principles and values of fairness and respect for all. This helps the children develop an understanding of their own and other people’s values and beliefs… Lessons in philosophy encourage children to learn to think through ideas and issues and to ask relevant questions and justify their opinions… The school is very successful in its aim to foster the social development of its children by encouraging feelings of self-worth. The school is committed to promoting a sense of community with common and inclusive values. It is at the heart of the community, which is well involved in school life. Children learn to be part of broader groups of people in less formal situations, which develops an understanding of their community and their rights and responsibilities to that community. Projects to care for the local environment such as the creation and maintenance of a school garden, creating a butterfly area, caring for newly hatched chicks and their involvement in visiting farms are just some of the ways pupils are helped to understand their responsibilities as citizens.

school-5Quality of education provided by the school
23. The very effective teaching at the Foundation Stage in the Reception class gives children a good start towards achieving the goals expected for children at this stage.

24. The establishment of excellent relationships between teachers and children is a motivating force for improving learning. Teachers listen carefully to children who know their contributions are valued and this makes them eager to do their best work. Activities are matched sensitively to children’s needs and children are totally absorbed and enjoyment is evident.

26. There are many strengths in the teaching but the one that has made the most impact on children’s learning is the willingness of staff to use innovative methods that have been proved to work well for these children. Staff have benefited from several research trips abroad to learn from international developments as well as those that are local and national. Such innovations as using Mantle of the Expert (contextual drama) as a way of extending children’s speaking and listening skills and the teaching of philosophy sessions show how the approaches that appeal to these children enable very good progression.
The Curriculum
• The curriculum is very imaginative and extremely relevant to the needs of the children.
• Children’s experiences are wide-ranging, stimulating their interest and enjoyment in learning. • Exemplary provision is made for the children with special educational needs.
• Inclusion is outstanding and reflects the school’s commitment to its values and beliefs.
• Children’s personal development is very well promoted though all aspects of the life of the school community.
• The school is a vibrant learning environment

school-429. The school’s richly diverse curriculum is built around the needs of the children and promotes creativity, enquiry and thinking skills, together with enjoyment through active learning and teaching lifelong skills that go beyond the subjects of the curriculum. Inclusion is at the heart of the work of the school. Innovations are well judged and very carefully managed. The teaching of philosophy has a real impact on learning in all aspects of the curriculum, as children are encouraged to think through ideas and issues, ask relevant questions and justify opinions and beliefs. They use these skills in everything they do. Throughout the school, much work is very successfully undertaken through “Mantle of the Expert” enterprises, a way of working that makes learning very real, uses drama to work though problems and cuts across curriculum subjects as the children lead the direction of their learning, becoming “experts” in the enterprises they invent. When the tasks omit planned aspects of individual subjects, these are taught separately. The curriculum is never static but under constant and rigorous review. New ideas are constantly evaluated to try and improve the quality of the curriculum further.

30. The provision for children’s personal development is very strong and permeates all aspects of the school’s work. On many occasions children proudly represent the school sharing their achievements on a wider stage. Active citizenship through the work in class and school councils reflects the discussions, decision-making and responsibilities of living in a vital caring community. Children understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle to maintain concentration and work hard and its success is seen in the “Healthy Schools” award.

school-331. Children benefit greatly from an extensive and varied programme of learning experiences. Many visitors, ranging from artists, poets, storytellers and librarians to gardeners and farmers, share their enthusiasms and expertise with the children often taking part in school events such as the “Expressive Arts Week”. Regular visits to places of interest extend children’s knowledge and understanding of the wider world. Farm visits, time spent at Houghton Hall and trips to the city or theatres really widen children’s horizons bringing them into contact with different environments. Sports coaches work to develop seasonal games skills and given the pupils’ age, the very good range of clubs, including French, are well attended. Brain exercise sessions help children improve their concentration and co-ordination in a very enjoyable way.

32. The school provides for large numbers of children with special educational needs exceptionally well. Ensuring needs are met in the most effective way is central to the values the school lives by. The quality and range of support that is provided is first–rate. Individual targets are very clear and precise and the adults supporting the children are very skilled and well trained. The extensive range of support includes: nurture work, counselling sessions, basic skills and intensive literacy support groups and particularly good letter sound work to support reading and spelling. All build the confidence and skills children need to do as well as they can. The “catch-up project” is highly successful and children often make very good progress in reading. The light sensory room is particularly effective in helping children manage their anger. When children have particular strengths or talents, they too are recognised and are well supported.
Care, guidance and support
• The school council is impressive and children know their views are valued and taken into consideration when decisions are made.
• Procedures for ensuring the welfare, health and safety of all children, including child protection are very good.
• Excellent relationships between children and adults are reflected in the trust children have in their teachers.
• All staff know the children and their families very well and use this information very effectively to provide the right level of support, advice and guidance for them.

school-235. The school has a very positive, caring ethos, which provides a well-organised and safe environment. Members of staff know the children exceptionally well and are always available to discuss with children any problems they may have on a personal and confidential basis. They are quick to notice if a child appears to be in difficulties and they offer immediate help. All staff work extremely hard to develop and maintain the excellent relationships observed within the school community. Teachers foster the development of personal and social skills and children respond well to opportunities to take responsibility. The good procedures for the induction of new children support their individual needs.

37. The school is very keen to involve children in the life of the school and to gain children’s views. To this end the school pays close attention to children’s ideas through the regular meetings of the school and class councils. The school frequently acts on children’s suggestions, for example, they are currently deciding what further play equipment could be made available in the playground.
Partnership with parents, other schools and the community
• The school makes excellent efforts to involve and inform parents about life in school and their children’s learning. Consequently, parents have a high opinion of the school, trust staff and want to be partners in their children’s education.
• Very good links with other schools and colleges enhances children’s opportunities to learn.
• The very constructive links with the community benefit the children’s learning.

38. The school has a strong commitment to partnerships with parents and they, in turn have a very high opinion of the school. The headteacher has excellent relationships with parents, who are made very welcome. There is trust between them and they are comfortable discussing personal matters that affect their children so staff are well informed and consequently provide very well for the children’s individual needs. Parents are shown how to support their children and are kept up to date about their children’s development in many ways, including annual reports. These enable parents to gain a clear view of their children’s progress because they tell parents about their children’s strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to write comments in response. Parents come into school every morning for early activities and many support their children in class. They also attend workshops to extend their own understanding about their child’s curriculum.
Leadership and management
Overall, leadership and management are very good. The headteacher’s leadership is outstanding and the very good leadership of key staff supports her very well. The leadership has some outstanding features and is highly influential beyond the school. The very good management enables the school to fulfil its vision and strategic objectives. The school is governed effectively and provides very good value for money.

• The headteacher has created the climate and established the vision that learning needs to be at the heart of the school.
• There is very good leadership from the deputy and other key staff.
• The leadership and management of special educational needs is exemplary.
• The very strong commitment to inclusion permeates all that the school provides.
• The school’s innovative work in developing effective teaching for successful learning has been developed, sustained and strengthened over several years.
• Management is very good to help raise standards and ensure a high quality of education for the children.
• The very good financial management helps the school achieve its educational priorities but the budget is tight and the school lacks some resources that would make teaching easier.

43. The leadership in this school is inspirational and has resulted in a much-improved school from the one that the headteacher inherited nine years ago. It has outstanding features and is highly influential beyond the school. The headteacher has clearly created the climate and established the vision that learning needs to be at the heart of the school. Her drive and determination have led to the success achieved with effective learning for those regarded as some of the most challenging children in this area. The patterns of change to raise standards have been highly effective and the leadership has kept its eye on learning as a relentless principle.

45. The subject leaders play an important part in developing and managing their responsibilities well. They understand the strengths and areas for development. The very good use made of the analysis of data from their assessments and from national tests has helped them to know what works well and why. For example, the improvements to provision for ICT have resulted in standards higher than is usually expected for the age of the children. Such innovations as using Mantle of the Expert (contextual drama) and the teaching of philosophy sessions show how the approaches that appeal to these children enable very good progression.

46. The leadership and management of special educational needs are exemplary and shared between the headteacher and her deputy who work closely with the governor who has designated responsibility for this aspect. Need is identified early and often begins before children start school because the families make the staff aware of the difficulties their children experience. The leadership has introduced many approaches to meet the wide variety of needs and most sessions are for those identified through assessments as the most needy. Using a very intensive programme and advising and involving parents in the learning works extremely well. In some approaches such as catch-up the progress is extraordinary and when a two-year gain in reading age over a short space of time was made parents were thrilled by the response to a new reading book. Sessions in the nurture room provide breakfast first before attending to the additional support these children need. Those who use it are emotionally upset, have far fewer skills than others of their age and cannot retain what they learn very easily. Eating and learning together has been found to improve the rate of progress. Counselling sessions are weekly events and confidential. They are undertaken in the context of the family and there is support for parents as well as their children. The light and sensory room is effective in anger management and in helping children overcome emotional difficulties.

50. The governing body fulfils its role effectively in the way it both challenges and supports the school. Governors have the same aspirations as the staff in wanting the best possible provision for the children. They are well informed about strengths and areas for further development from a programme of school visits, keeping good records that are shared with all governors and their involvement in committee work and the school development plan. Consulting families and the children when taking decisions has been an essential priority in ensuring there is support for new proposals and significant changes. At all times the governors give close attention to ‘best value’ principles and monitor whether opportunities for learning have been improved. Some governors take a very active part in the provision for children. One governor looks after the building, keeps tabs on health and safety aspects, gives endless time to the technical support for the ICT work and joins in with music lessons, using his expertise and skills very effectively in the children’s learning.
PART C:The Quality of Education in Areas of Learning and Subjects
Areas of learning in the foundation stage
51. Provision for the reception children in the Foundation Stage is very good overall reflecting the innovative teaching and effective support that enables the children to achieve very well.

52. …The methods used by teachers such as ‘Mantle of the Expert’ approach to learning, together with other learning methods that include thinking skills development, philosophy and individualised programmes for learners with challenging learning needs help children learn faster and achieve very well. The adults provide excellent role models for the children and manage them very well. The teamwork is particularly good and teachers and the learning support staff work in the same way with the children and all are involved in keeping track of the children’s progress….

Personal, social and emotional development
Provision in personal, social and emotional development is very good.
• Excellent relationships have been established so children are secure and happy.
• Teaching is very good and children make rapid progress and achieve very well.
• Effective use is made of thinking skills sessions and philosophical discussions to help children understand the importance of listening, asking questions and what it means to agree or disagree with another person’s idea or opinion.

54. The teaching and learning of this area are very good. The excellent relationships motivate children to want to learn. Adults help to build children’s confidence, concentration spans have grown and now most manage to maintain attention for long periods of time. In a thinking skills session when children discussed ‘What if you were as small as your thumb’, the teacher’s enthusiasm and encouragement ensured they made positive and negative suggestions for 30 minutes. The use of this method is effective because everyone has to listen carefully and then make either sensible or imaginative suggestions, which they succeed in doing.

Communication, language and literacy
The use of investigations through drama (Mantle of the Expert) has extended imaginative thinking and children make rapid progress in their speaking and listening skills.

school-155. …Teachers are very skilled storytellers who foster a love of books so children enjoy choosing and ‘reading’ the stories they love and most are keen to take them home. They read words and captions around the room and particularly enjoy reading those they have attempted to write themselves. Because teachers use games and interesting objects the children learn initial sounds and those that come at the end of words. Imaginative teaching methods have brought considerable success in extending children’s speaking and listening skills. Because teachers are skilled at helping children feel secure, gain confidence and persevere they have adopted the ‘we can do that’ approach and are determined to extend their talk and thinking to improve communication. As they imagine they are a firm of builders responsible for rebuilding the homes of the three little pigs, they talk to one another about building problems, share ideas, find ways of warning about the wolf’s presence and write notices, quite independently, to reflect this, such as ‘Danger, LOPK Awt for the WDLF’ (look out for the wolf)…

Subjects in Key Stages 1 & 2
English
All children achieve well because the teaching is good.
• The innovative methods inspire and challenge children to make considerably better efforts than might be expected in speaking and listening.
• The very good leadership ensures that teachers have the advice and support they need.
• The ways that well trained learning support assistants work with small groups and individuals make a very positive contribution to children’s learning.

62. The school has introduced some innovative teaching of literacy skills, with sessions for teaching the basic skills that are separate to the longer sessions using Dorothy Heathcote’s Mantle of the Expert or contextual drama approach to learning. This system has proved very relevant to these children who need a ‘hands and minds on’ approach if standards are to be raised. The growth of imagination through imagined contexts is fascinating and the teaching of English is no longer just a knowledge-based approach. Other learning breakthrough methods such as philosophy, thinking skills development and individualised learning programmes for those with challenging needs are employed in this as in other subjects to ensure children achieve as well as they can.

63. The use of these many and varied approaches has had a dramatic effect on children’s speaking and listening skills which are better than expected for their age. By Year 2, children are learning the skills of communication by asking questions, listening to the thoughts of others and responding. As they play out the roles of a time travel company one child chairs the meeting reminding others to make their points through the chair. They have to listen carefully and express opinions that show good recall of the point they have reached in the drama before dealing with the latest element, which is a discussion about a letter where they are refused planning permission for their new offices. Some interesting moral issues are discussed such as whether verbal promises can be trusted and they begin to question the actions, motives and values of others. The very good teaching keeps children engrossed in the task and they make better progress than might be expected.

66. Very good links exist between language and literacy and personal development. The innovative teaching has created a spark that has lit up children’s ability to feel confident when speaking to others about any subject. As part of their history work, Year 3 had made effective use of their technology skills to create a PowerPoint presentation of life in World War 2. When demonstrating this, their capacity to explain their thinking and learning was very good and their confidence in answering questions resulted in some exceptional responses. The use of philosophical discussion permeates all subjects and by Year 2, children make good progress in justifying and explaining thinking clearly, exploring and using different types of questions and in being able to disagree with someone else without falling out. They use the library and the Internet to research topics and write factual accounts and in science they write about and record experiments.
Mathematics
• As a result of strong teaching, children achieve well in their lessons.
• Learning is carefully matched to children’s mathematical capabilities so they can gain in confidence and make good progress.
• Practical activities involve children in solving problems, making decisions about their work and thinking mathematically.
• Numeracy skills are successfully applied to new situations in other subjects.
• Leadership and management of the subject are very good.

68. Children achieve well because teaching is good and in half of the lessons it is very good. Teachers plan lessons that take into account what the children need to know to build on their previous learning and because they find the best way that it can be taught children make faster progress in using numbers and mathematical ideas. Because teachers have well-established routines and provide plenty of thinking time the slower learners in Year 2 are helped to use their knowledge of numbers that add up to ten when solving such problems as 16+? = 20. The planning is effective because tasks are appropriate for children’s capability and consequently all the children, including those who join the class from a special school, are totally involved, sharing success and enjoying the confidence gained by working together. Some work on symmetrical patterns and learn to recognise the properties of two and three-dimensional shapes while higher attainers work independently on their reflective patterns.

70. Because teachers have high expectations of what children can do they explain and demonstrate tasks clearly. They question very effectively so children think through their work mathematically and explain their answers with confidence. Very good assessment procedures are in place and children’s progress is regularly checked and considered well when new work is planned. Teachers’ marking comments, discussions during lessons and children’s emerging judgements about their own learning all help them to know how well they are doing.
Science
• Children achieve well as a result of strong teaching.
• Because children are first hand, practical investigators, they discuss ideas and think carefully about what they are finding out.
• Learning is realistic and purposeful because it is linked to other subjects or is part of innovative teaching.
• By using the outside environment, visits and visitors in lessons, the children have wide and rich experiences in science.

74. …Because teachers use innovative teaching methods such as investigative drama (Mantle of the Expert) children take on the mantle of business personnel experts establishing a new space company; they have to research the subject well. In doing so they discover many facts about the sun’s solar system, identify the planets and are completely amazed to realise our incredibly tiny presence in our galaxy. This way of teaching extends children’s achievement…

75. The use of the outside environment is becoming an invaluable resource for learning because it provides children with first hand experiences of, for example, the relationships between plants and animals. Their use of gardening skills and responsibilities such as sowing, planting, nurturing and harvesting their flowers, fruit and vegetables often provide fresh produce for the playground market as well as extending their knowledge and skills.
Information and communication technology
• Children, including those with special educational needs, achieve highly in their work because of the many creative, original and exciting learning opportunities open to them.
• Standards are much improved since the last inspection because of the importance and value placed on the subject.
• The inspiring leadership of the subject co-ordinator and the confidence and expertise of the staff enable children to become independent users of ICT.

77. The aim of the school’s work in ICT is for children to become learners who are “confident, effective and creative in their use of information and communication technology” – and in this it is very successful. By the end of Year 2, children achieve highly, reaching standards much better than expected for their age and showing considerable improvement on those found at the time of the last inspection. In discussion, children talked confidently about the uses of technology and were making very good progress in their knowledge and understanding of use of digital video technology and using e-mail. When sharing information they are extremely confident and demonstrate efficient use of all the tools in a piece of software. The improved facilities of an ICT laboratory, skilled support from a technician and the specialist skills of the subject leader have resulted in teachers who have a very secure knowledge about what to teach, together with creativeness in planning that has been a prime factor in raising standards.

78. In the lessons seen in the Reception Year and Years 2 and 3 the teaching is very good. Because teachers inspire and challenge children they make very good progress in carrying out tasks that make full use of their computer skills and technological knowledge as in a Year 2 class when children worked enthusiastically as ‘experts’ for the “Time Travel Company” following their responsibilities with great purpose. Having previously researched a topic on the Internet, the Year 3 children prepare their own sophisticated visual presentations very confidently using Power Point to explain what life was like in the Second World War. Teachers ensure that, although the work often follows the children’s inventive programmes, the requirements of the ICT curriculum are fully met and children’s learning is constantly extended. Teachers plan effectively so there are many different activities in technology apart from using computers. Digital cameras are used frequently. For instance the nurture group record the results of a numeracy activity exploring heavier and lighter fruits and reception children take photographs of models they have made or work completed to show their family how well they are progressing.

79. Children benefit greatly from the skills of the subject leader and sometimes this involves their parents for considerable periods of time. One such project was not only ground breaking but very exciting when the Year 2 and 3 “Star Company” undertook a project to film the ancient Egyptian myth of Seth and Orsiris. This was a piece of outstanding practice.
Creative, aesthetic, practical and physical subjects
85. Teachers use philosophy sessions as one way of teaching this subject, which is successful because children are confident at taking part in discussion, explaining their thoughts and feelings and giving an opinion about moral issues. Because teaching is imaginative and challenging children are keen to be involved and participate very well. In one lesson for Years 2 and 3, children took on the mantle of ‘advisers to the king’ and made suggestions how a dilemma, concerning the king of Denmark helping one group of people in his country who were being forced to wear a yellow star on their outdoor clothing, could be resolved. Because teachers use storytelling effectively the children listen attentively, interest is maintained and they are stimulated to participate in tasks. Teachers make effective use of literacy skills in this subject, which gives meaning to what they have learned so they can explain, for example, that bullet points are used to ‘spark off the memory’ and if a vital word is missed out it can change the meaning of a sentence. The use of appropriate terminology in a lesson about Buddhism showed children understood the meaning of ‘meditate’ and began to use ‘enlightenment’ as they talked.

88. In art and design children experience a whole host of activities and there are clear indications that standards are higher than expected for their age. Much of the work results from lessons using the “Mantle of the Expert” way of working and makes genuine links across the subjects of the curriculum. Most recently, in “Art Company”, the talented young artists in Years 2 and 3 worked alongside a local artist to produce mono-prints using stencils rolled in oil paint; their high quality artwork was celebrated at a public exhibition. Inspired by the book “The Dragon with Red Eyes” by Astrid Lindgren, children make very good progress in using their imagination to combine a wide range of their art techniques to create giant creatures, plait their individual paper dragons and design Chinese lanterns. Because teachers introduce children to the work of many different artists and demonstrate the techniques used older children are very successful in producing their own startling black and white portrait images in the style of Picasso. Artwork often has a real purpose through which children experience the full range of materials and teachers systematically build on techniques. The younger children have made good connections to science and mathematics and inspired by the changing seasons and world around them, they make effective use of natural materials for their special portraits, investigate patterns through bark and leaf rubbings, blow paint to represent their ideas of the silhouettes of winter trees and make careful drawings of increasing detail of their fungi before discovering the patterns the spores produce.

89. The design and technology activities explored have real value because they arise from meaningful situations and enjoyment is a very important element of the work they do. Indications from work sampled show that children are making good progress and work is often linked to other subjects. For example, the Year 1 scientific investigations of the waterproof and insulating qualities of materials inspired children to design and make a winter shelter for their hibernating “clay” hedgehogs and the teacher capitalised on recent stormy weather to raise questions about the suitability of some of their outdoor structures, thus identifying new problems to be solved. Work is often of a high standard. Within their work for the “Time Travel Company” children work enthusiastically in using their skills for contributions to a Second World War public exhibition. Some children design and make aeroplanes and produce instruction sheets for visitors to follow, while others consider the design of new company offices and produce scale models for use by the firm of architects. Whichever way the children’s “expert” decisions and ideas lead the work, teachers ensure that children build on their range of skills to work both creatively and safely and widen their experience of working with different tools and materials. Wheeled vehicles, made during the annual “Craft Circus” week of activities and on display in school, show that children can strengthen their structures, successfully join wood and paper, know how to attach wheels and axles and carefully complete their vehicles in an attractive way.

Music
• Teaching by the specialist is very good and driving up standards.
• The subject makes a good contribution to spiritual and cultural development.
• Lessons are used effectively to instil confidence and raise children’s self-esteem.

91. A specialist teaches music and children are making good progress in developing their early music skills. By Year 2 and in Year 3 standards are better than those expected for children of this age, which is an improvement since the last inspection. Because the skills are introduced at the Reception Year and built on systematically, the children achieve very well, they look forward to lessons and their enjoyment is evident. This is one of the few subjects when children are taught only in year groups rather than as a mixed age class and the specialist and class teachers work together to ensure that the planned progression ensures good continuity. Because the teachers have built up trusting relationships with the children, most children are confident in trying new things and sing unaccompanied and sometimes alone. The children are well supported in this subject by assistant staff and one governor whose skills and expertise are used effectively in the class group. Because teachers plan effectively, children have a range of experiences that excite them, maintain their interest, challenge them and extend their knowledge and skills so they make good progress. Every lesson has a warm up activity to put children in the right mood for the subject. Because teachers include a range of activities that include: singing, learning new songs, listening and appreciating music, demonstrating progress in playing an instrument such as percussion or recorders, the children are totally absorbed and make very good efforts. There is a very good range of percussion so children have every opportunity to use appropriate ones when selecting mood music for a character in a story. Once the singing warms up it is spiritually uplifting and this is evident in worship sessions too. Children are confident singers with good tone and sense of rhythm. The range of music presented to the children includes that of many cultures and during the lessons children enjoyed songs from the Caribbean.
Personal, social and health education and citzenship
• The effective programme of activities links closely to the school’s aims and values and raises children’s awareness of the need for a safe and healthy lifestyle, being confident and getting on well with others.
• The teaching is good and characterised by a high level of commitment to the children and by their excellent relationships with them.
• The philosophy sessions make a very pertinent contribution to children’s personal development.

92. Children’s personal development is an important part of the school’s work and the very caring ethos is the foundation on which the excellent relationships are built. Because these relationships are so good, children trust teachers and talk openly about their concerns and successes. Some visitors from outside agencies provide counselling for children and this is successful because they win the children’s trust, make them feel secure and listen carefully to what children want to share. There are visitors to the school almost every day and children have a growing understanding of their responsibilities within a wider society. This is demonstrated well in the way they care for and look out for one another in school. They learn the basic rules and skills for keeping themselves healthy and safe and for behaving well. Because teachers give them opportunities for responsibility they show that they can take some responsibility for themselves and for their classroom and school generally.

93. The development of the school council has extended to class councils and recently ways were found to involve even the youngest children so views are totally representative of the whole school. Those children who stand for the council have to convince ‘voters’ why they can do the job well and a secret ballot takes place so the voting is democratic. This helps children to understand what it means to be a responsible citizen. At their most recent meeting, discussions about fund raising for equipment heightened their awareness that money comes from different sources and can be used for different purposes. Because teachers plan philosophy sessions, children have a well developed understanding, for their age, about other people’s feelings and have a growing awareness of the views, needs, rights of other children and older people.

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