St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Houghton

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About St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Houghton

Name St Michael’s Catholic Primary School, Houghton
Ofsted Inspections
Headteacher Mr Nicholas Reeson
Address Durham Road, Houghton le Spring, DH5 8NF
Phone Number 01915840542
Phase Academy
Type Academy converter
Age Range 4-11
Religious Character Roman Catholic
Gender Mixed
Number of Pupils 209
Local Authority Sunderland
Highlights from Latest Inspection

What is it like to attend this school?

St Michael's is a place where leaders, staff and pupils are driven by the school ethos of 'Belong, Believe and Become'. Pupils strive to be the best they can be. St Michael's is an inclusive school where pupils feel safe and happy.

Leaders have planned an ambitious curriculum to make sure all pupils achieve well.

Bullying rarely happens and, when it does, pupils know an adult will sort it out quickly. 'Bully Busters' from each year group support other pupils in their relationships.

Pupils play well together right from the start, from early years to Year 6. However, sometimes a small minority of pupils use homophobic language.

Pupils show positive att...itudes to learning.

Older pupils take great pride in their work because teachers have high expectations of them. Pupils' behaviour in lessons and around the school is good. This is because teachers have high expectations of pupils.

Teachers and other pupils are supportive of those who have special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).

Pupils appreciate that teachers recognise and develop their talents. This is achieved through a range of sports clubs, music tuition, choir, and crafts.

Links with a local university help pupils develop their sports skills.

What does the school do well and what does it need to do better?

Trustees have led the school through a difficult period of turbulence in staffing. They have made difficult decisions quickly.

Trustees have formed a committed leadership team in the school. Some leaders recently moved into new roles. Even so, subject leaders are enthusiastic about their subjects of responsibility.

They are keen to play their part in the school's development. Leaders have a clear and determined vision for every child to achieve well. Leaders in most subjects, including English, mathematics and science, know how precisely the subjects are taught.

For some foundation subjects, such as geography, subject leaders do not have a clear understanding of how well their subject is being taught.

Together, leaders have brought about many improvements across the school. As a result, the quality of education pupils receive is good.

In all subjects, the essential knowledge pupils must know and remember from early years to Year 6 has been mapped out. Plans show essential knowledge for each subject taught. Teachers know what pupils need to remember.

They connect what pupils already know to new learning. For example, in history, pupils quickly recap their knowledge from previous lessons. They use the knowledge they have remembered to help them answer questions about the reasons for the Second World War.

Teachers check and fill the gaps in pupils' knowledge brought about due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, pupils remember what they have been taught previously and how this connects to previous learning to help them with current learning. For example, in geography, pupils in Year 1 remember why penguins cannot live near the equator: because 'it would get super-duper hot'.

Pupils explained that they learned in science that penguins have blubber to keep them warm because they live in Antarctica.

Subject leaders have strong subject expertise. They provide helpful guidance for teachers.

This support develops teachers' subject knowledge and helps them deliver subject curriculums well. However, sometimes some staff do not know the most effective approaches to use to support pupils learning to read.

Leaders make learning to read a priority.

Children start learning straight away in Reception the letters and sounds that they need to learn to read. Leaders introduced a new way of teaching phonics this academic year. Staff follow this clear and structured programme.

Some children are given support to catch up to where they need to be by the end of Year 1. Teachers make sure children can remember and use the sounds that they learn when they read words. Pupils at the early stages of reading learn to read well.

Staff regularly read high-quality texts to pupils to foster their love of reading. Pupils say that they enjoy reading.

In mathematics, pupils explain confidently what they have previously learned.

They talk knowledgeably about what they are currently learning, which gives them confidence when tackling new concepts. For example, children in Reception found numerals to 20 that were hidden around the learning environment and then ordered them from lowest to highest. In Year 2, pupils talked enthusiastically about equivalence of fractions.

They recognised one half being equivalent to two quarters. Pupils in Year 6 said that adults support them well with their work as it becomes more demanding. They are well prepared for Year 7.

The special educational needs coordinator (SENCo) is knowledgeable about the range of pupils' needs in the school. She ensures staff are trained to effectively support pupils with SEND so that they access the whole curriculum. Teachers provide resources and adjust the curriculum to make sure all pupils gain the knowledge they need in order to achieve well.

However, a few parents do not know about the support that is provided.

Pupils learn about different faiths and types of families through the curriculum. Pupils know that everyone is different in their own way.

Leaders use assemblies to teach pupils about uniqueness. Pupils learn and know about the importance of contributing to society through charity events and fundraising for overseas charities. Most pupils interact well with each other most of the time.

However, sometimes pupils use homophobic language. This is because they do not understand why they should not do so.


The arrangements for safeguarding are effective.

Staff attend safeguarding training and receive regular updates. They use their knowledge to help them identify pupils who need help or are at risk. Staff know how to report and record concerns about pupils they have concerns about.

Referrals to external agencies are made in a timely manner. Leaders work with other agencies to get help for pupils. Pupils learn about different risks and how to manage them.

This includes an age-appropriate understanding of keeping safe when online and healthy relationships.

Leaders of safeguarding complete appropriate safer recruitment checks before staff begin to work at the school.

What does the school need to do to improve?

(Information for the school and appropriate authority)

• A small but significant number of parents raised concerns that leaders do not communicate information in a timely manner.

This includes information about their child's SEND. Leaders acknowledge that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, communication with parents has not been good enough. Leaders should ensure that parents receive the information that they need regularly, including information specific to parents who have children with SEND.

• In a few cases, members of staff do not have expert knowledge to teach early reading. Consequently, some teachers do not choose activities that help pupils learn as well as they might. Leaders should continue to develop staff's understanding of how to teach early reading well.

• Subject leaders do not systematically check and evaluate the impact of some foundation subjects. As a result, leaders do not yet have a thorough understanding of how well some subjects, other than mathematics, English and science, are being taught. Leaders should develop a system that gives them the information they need to ensure pupils benefit from effective teaching.

• Some pupils do not fully understand the protected characteristics. Consequently, some pupils use homophobic language and do not understand why this is not acceptable. Leaders should ensure pupils understand about all protected groups so that pupils are prepared for life as citizens in modern Britain.

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