Inspection date 1st November 2016
The school continues to be Good.
MAIN INSPECTION FINDINGS:
The headteacher, acting deputy headteacher and middle leaders are an effective leadership team. They have identified areas of the curriculum that needed to improve and have taken action to improve teaching and learning. Leaders identified that the teaching of reading could improve. All staff have received training on the teaching of phonics and other strategies intended to support pupils with their reading. Pupils are using their phonic knowledge well to sound out letters and are becoming more confident in blending letters to make words. In lessons, pupils were observed using these skills well in their reading and spelling. Pupils who have profound and multiple learning difficulties are supported well in their learning. Pupils exercised their fingers through manipulating modelling clay. The middle leader who has responsibility for this group of pupils has trained staff to promote pupils’ physical development. Each pupil has a target, for example, to stand using a standing frame for five minutes. These targets are shared with the parents so they can help their child complete the exercises at home. The parents also provide feedback about how well their child has achieved the tasks. The pupils have made good progress. The impact of the activities has led to pupils’ improved readiness for learning and increased their independence and ability to move around the classroom.
Pupils’ scientific knowledge is increasing through practical activities. I observed younger pupils learning about light and dark, and exploring how light makes a difference in a dark tent. The adults supported the pupils well and readily responded to pupils’ non-verbal communication, praising the pupils for their physical movements.
The leader with responsibility for pupils’ communication needs has developed a range of strategies to support these needs. She has provided training in Makaton for both staff and parents to support those pupils who find verbal communication difficult. The school benefits from the expertise of the speech and language therapist. She has supported the staff to set communication targets for the pupils.
However, the leader is aware that the teachers’ assessment of the progress that the pupils are making in their communication skills needs to develop, to help ensure that pupils are making as much progress as they can.
The staff use symbols well to support pupils’ communication skills. Pupils observed had symbols to explain to them how to make a diya (lamp), as part of the school’s Diwali day. In addition, adults prepared some pupils for lunch by giving them a choice between two objects that represented food. This helped the pupils realise that they could make a choice by indicating a preference. In the early years, the children’s achievements across the curriculum are recorded in detail through photographs and observations by all staff who work in the classroom. One child recognised that his surname ended in the letter sound he was learning about. Another child knew that he lived in Great Britain. The teachers promoted the children’s knowledge and understanding of the world through looking at Diwali celebrations. The children sang a song about Diwali enthusiastically and were fascinated by the smell of Indian sweets. The children make good progress from their starting points. The teachers’ assessments of what the pupils can do are not used well enough to plan the next steps in the pupils’ learning. This is particularly the case for the most able pupils, including the most able disadvantaged pupils. The most able pupils told the inspector that the work can be too easy for them.
In addition, the school has not worked with external partners well enough to check that the teachers’ assessments are accurate. Consequently, the targets given to the most able pupils do not provide enough challenge and their progress slows.
The students in the sixth form are becoming confident individuals. The school promotes the students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development well. Students are aware of the actions of others. One student was observed thanking the pupils and staff who made a feast to celebrate Diwali. The students walk into the local town to go shopping and order food and drink to prepare them for independent living, accompanied by school staff. In mathematics lessons, students use the receipts to check that they have been given the correct change.
The school’s sixth-form curriculum does not provide enough opportunities, however, for the most able students to develop their key skills in English, mathematics and computing. This group of students does not make as much progress as they could.
The school promotes students’ personal development through allocating roles of responsibility within the school. These roles can involve supporting younger pupils with their reading or maintaining the school garden.
Most students have the opportunity to take part in work experience in the sixth form, which prepares the students well for independent living. Placements include the students working at Barnardo’s or at a local riding stables. Each student has access to impartial careers advice and each student has an individual learning plan that includes their aspirations for when they leave the school.
The sixth-form leader ensures that the students are studying for qualifications related to their personal development. Some are also focused on courses related to specific skills, such as swimming and cooking. The school prepares students well for when they leave the school. The school remains in contact with students who have recently left the school, so that it can still offer support for students at college if necessary. School records show that all students who left the school in July 2016 have settled well into college.
Pupils’ behaviour is good. Established routines enables the pupils to feel secure, which helps to promote their learning. In the morning, pupils wait patiently for their turn to say ‘Good morning.’ A calm approach to managing pupils’ behaviour enables all pupils to participate with the greeting, experiencing success. Incidents of fixed-term exclusions have reduced rapidly. Leaders closely analyse the possible reasons why pupils exhibit challenging behaviour. As a result, plans are put in place to reduce the likelihood of pupils repeating poor behaviour. These plans have helped reduce the number of incidents of challenging behaviour. The leaders use the pupil premium funding well to promote the learning of disadvantaged pupils. The funding has secured the services of a music therapist to enrich the curriculum and develop pupils’ communication skills. It has also been used to fund a member of staff to teach sensory sessions. These sessions develop pupils’ sensory processing skills, for example, by pupils focusing on a bubble tube. There is no difference in the amount of progress disadvantaged pupils make compared with that of other pupils in the school who have the same starting points.
The sport funding premium has enabled pupils to participate in festivals and competitions with other special schools. Pupils have participated in gymnastics, dance and games activities. In addition, the school has linked with the local football club, which has provided training for the pupils to develop their skills to play football. The pupils’ physical development has been promoted well.
The local authority has led training for the governing body, which has increased the level of challenge that governors provide to leaders. The governors have observed the teaching and learning alongside the local authority adviser to improve their knowledge and understanding of the school. Minutes of governing body meetings show that the governors now ask leaders more probing questions about school improvement. However, the school’s action plan does not contain clear enough success criteria by which governors can judge whether the actions taken by leaders have been successful. This has limited the level of challenge that the governors provide to leaders.