OFSTED has given Thameside Junior school a one year: “Notice to improve” after the government’s recent inspection visit and report.
It is clear that the school was heading towards special measures until Stifford primary boss, Mark Jones stepped into the breach as Executive Head.
Indeed this is reflected in the report, which is hardly damning, recognising that in November 2010, the Manor Road school is definitely on the way up.
Among the criticisms are:
1. Pupils do not attain as well as they should because teachers’ expectations are too low and lessons do not provide sufficient challenge. As another pupil commented, ‘The work is a bit easy. We need a bit harder work.’
2. An extended period of unsettling changes in the leadership of the school until very recently resulted in the school not driving the improvement needed in the quality of teaching and the progress made by pupils.
3. The governing body and senior leaders have welcomed the appointment of the executive headteacher to galvanise the school into action. However, the lack of strong direction for the school until now has meant that pupils of all abilities, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities and those who speak English as an additional language, have not made enough progress in their learning in the past and have fallen behind other pupils nationally. Attainment at the end of Year 6 is low and has been so over several years. However, there are early signs that the progress pupils make is improving rapidly.
4. There has been no monitoring of the quality of support provided for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities to ensure that they are effectively challenged and fully included in lessons.
The tracking of pupils’ progress through the school has been introduced by the headteacher. However, this information is not used adequately by teachers to plan lessons to stretch pupils of different abilities or promote better progress. This is especially true for pupils of higher ability and those who have special educational needs and/or disabilities.
5. Marking does not consistently identify how pupils can improve their work.
However these criticisms are seen as historical and the school is compared to Chafford Hundred which received the same assessment six months into Headteacher Chris Tomlinson’s rule but rose in four years to be the most improved school in the country.
The report highlights what the school needs to do to improve:
1. Raise attainment in English and mathematics by improving lesson planning to ensure that assessment information is used to set consistently challenging tasks for all groups of pupils, especially those who are more able and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities
2. Monitoring the provision for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities, and making improvements to ensure they are fully included in lessons
3. Ensuring marking clearly identifies how pupils can improve their work.
4. Extend curriculum links between subjects to provide more opportunities for pupils to apply and develop their literacy and numeracy skills, and make lessons more interesting.
5. Teachers do not use what they know about pupils’ progress consistently to plan tasks, which extend different ability groups. In some lessons, particularly mathematics, planning does not focus sufficiently well on the different ability groups within the class.
In a Year 5 lesson, for example, pupils found the task of estimating and weighing different vegetables too easy. Learning opportunities were lost because they completed the task quickly, lost motivation and their attention wandered.
Ofsted clearly pin their hopes on Mark Jones
The report states:
“The headteacher, as an experienced leader and manager, sets clear and ambitious direction for the school. Analysis of the school’s weaknesses has been rigorous and plans to bring about improvement are well-targeted so they are beginning to show signs of success.
A sound start has been made to addressing the areas of weakness from the last inspection. Staff have been united by incisive leadership and share the same drive for improvement. Subject leaders adopt a more systematic approach to their leadership role than previously and are beginning to share with the senior staff the evaluation of monitoring of teaching and learning in their subject areas. However, monitoring of the support for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities is not yet in place.
YourThurrock spoke to Mark and Dep. Head Lyn Billingshurst about the challenges ahead.