St John Fisher teachers are so friendly, welcoming and approachable' was how one parent summed up the family atmosphere that pervades this effective school.
The overwhelmingly positive views of parents and carers reflect the school's outstanding engagement with them. All the staff, including the headteacher, know every child extremely well as an individual. The high quality care and pupils' positive attitudes to learning are both key factors in the school's success.
An extensive range of partnerships significantly enriches and enhances the school's provision, making an excellent contribution to pupils' outstanding outcomes, including their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, a...nd adoption of healthy lifestyles. Pupils say they always feel safe at school, and high levels of attendance reflect both this and their excellent enjoyment of school. Significant improvements in the Early Years Foundation Stage since the previous inspection mean that children get off to a good start.
This good progress continues through Key Stage 1 but is more limited in Years 3 and 4, where progress is only satisfactory. Here, teachers sometimes miss opportunities, taken in classes for younger pupils, to develop pupils' literacy skills further by focusing carefully on the quality of their spoken language. Progress starts to accelerate again in Year 5, and is particularly rapid in Year 6, so that by the end of Key Stage 2, attainment is high.
Pupils' high attainment and good progress overall, including for pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities, means that their achievement is outstanding. The school's tracking of the progress of individual pupils is meticulous. Leaders also analyse the performance of different groups annually.
However, though they frequently monitor individual progress to ensure that gaps are closing, they do not draw this information together regularly enough to check that the progress of targeted groups is sufficient to eradicate gaps completely. Teaching is good overall, but the quality of individual lessons ranges from satisfactory to outstanding. Where the quality is less than outstanding, it is often because there is insufficient challenge to promote rapid progress for groups at different levels.
In most lessons, teachers ensure that pupils' engagement is at least good. They ensure that pupils understand well what they are learning and why, though sometimes there is a tendency for adults to direct too much of the lesson. Although teachers actively involve pupils in whole-class introductions to lessons, and mostly conduct these at a brisk pace, they sometimes include too much explanation, which shortens the time available for pupils to work independently or collaboratively.
As well as securing a number of outstanding features, the school has improved other important areas from satisfactory to good, including the overall effectiveness of the Early Years Foundation Stage. This reflects the school's good capacity for sustained improvement. The rapidly increasing effectiveness of the governing body, another area that is now good, makes an important contribution to this capacity.
Governors, and leaders at all levels, have an accurate picture overall of the school's performance. There are good quality plans in place to tackle areas requiring further improvement. Considering the outcomes its pupils achieve, the school provides outstanding value for money.
Information about the school
This is an average-sized primary school. Most pupils are from a range of minority ethnic groups, with the majority being of Black African heritage. The large majority of pupils speak English as an additional language; much higher than the proportion typically seen, but very few are at the early stages of English language acquisition.
The percentage of pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities is above average. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is above average. In January 2011, St John Fisher achieved accreditation as a 'Dyslexia Friendly' school.