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There is a sense of joy at Prior Heath Infant School. Pupils are excited to be learning and showing what they can remember.
From the word go, when they join Reception Year, children learn to relish stories and vocabulary. They are keen to share their favourite books and read to visitors. They are proud of their school values and talk about the importance of respect and perseverance in particular.
Pupils are delighted to be here because they are confident that all the grown-ups care about them and their learning. They benefit from the careful structures and routines that help them to keep focused on their learning, especially after recent disruption due to the COVID-19... (coronavirus) pandemic. Some pupils can get a little over-excited about new activities, but adults maintain their high expectations of learning and behaviour.
They calmly and successfully help pupils to regain focus.
Pupils like the consistent care from staff and say that any mean behaviour is dealt with well. Pupils feel safe because they know that there is always someone to talk to who will listen to them and take them seriously.
What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?
Senior leaders have an accurate understanding of the school. They are ambitious and know what needs to be done to refine the curriculum. In the past year, they have strengthened the teaching of reading and other subjects, including mathematics.
Staff have created a strong culture of reading in the school. They follow their chosen phonics programme carefully, making sure that pupils read books that are matched to the sounds they are learning. This work starts as children join Reception Year.
It is successful in creating a real buzz about books and stories. Children are excited about the fact that they are going to be able to read any book in future.
Teachers and teaching assistants use assessment carefully in many subjects.
For example, with reading, pupils' reading records precisely identify what knowledge pupils have secured and what they need to focus on next. This information is used well to identify and help any pupils who have fallen behind.
Some subjects are still being developed.
For example, in geography, the plans for what pupils need to know do not build in a systematic way. They do not take into account what pupils need to know in order to be successful in Year 3. In other subjects, such as religious education, the plans are more thorough and logical, but leaders have not checked how well they are working throughout the school.
Other subjects are planned and delivered with high ambition for all. The special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) has ensured that all staff are knowledgeable about how to best adapt learning for any pupil with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). There is a strong sense of determination that all pupils with SEND will participate fully in school life.
Staff make good use of support from the SENCo to identify and understand pupils' needs. Parents and carers were full of praise for this aspect of the school's work. One parent wrote: 'I am always amazed about how they can cater to individual needs so well and tailor a learning plan.'
The ambition that leaders have for pupils goes beyond the purely academic. Pupils have a wide range of opportunities that support their wider learning and development. The school's values are threaded through all aspects of school life and pupils are proud of them.
For example, pupils know what it means to be a good friend, and talk thoughtfully about why it is important to include people in games and events. They can identify the potential consequences of actions. Pupils in Year 2 are proud to take on responsibility, such as being a 'playtime pal'.
Pupils also enjoy the many clubs and activities on offer.
Leaders have high expectations for behaviour and attitudes throughout the school. Calm routines are successfully established from the time children join Reception Year.
These help to give pupils a strong start and orderly environment around the school. However, some older pupils get over-excited at change, for example about the arrival of visitors for the first time since the pandemic began. They sometimes need extra reminders of the school's values and expectations.
Governors have provided much support for everyone at the school, especially during the partial closures. However, they have not provided systematic challenge over time. They have not kept abreast of training and so have gaps in their knowledge about their statutory duties.
The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.
School leaders have established a clear sense of duty and responsibility among staff, who are alert to their role to help keep children safe. Staff have a secure knowledge of how to recognise concerns and report them clearly.
Systems are used well to communicate swiftly and make sure that actions are effective.
Pupils are confident that grown-ups are always there and ready to listen. Pupils have a strong understanding of how to keep themselves safe when online, but their knowledge is not as strong about keeping safe when out and about.
What does the school need to do to improve?
(Information for the school and appropriate authority)
• The school's curriculum is not yet sufficiently well planned and sequenced in some subjects. Additionally, some curriculum areas do not take account of what pupils need to learn when they move to Year 3. Consequently, leaders are not certain that pupils will have the knowledge that they need to succeed when they move to junior school.
However, it is clear that leaders have already taken action to address these weaknesses. For this reason, the transitional arrangements have been applied. ? In some subjects, leaders do not know how successfully the new curriculum plans are being implemented.
Consequently, they do not know whether pupils have secured the knowledge that they need in order to be successful in their next steps. The monitoring and evaluation of how well plans are put into practice, and the difference that they make to pupils, need to be systematic and routine. ? Governors' knowledge of their roles and responsibilities is not strong enough.
It does not enable them to challenge leaders effectively. Governors need up-to-date knowledge so that they can ask the right questions that will hold leaders to account. They need to better understand their statutory duties, so that they can fulfil their roles and support school improvement effectively.
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