St Mary's Catholic Primary School, Claughton, is a small rural school with 39 on roll in 2 mixed age classes, on the boundary of the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire.
The school and the church are at the heart of the community, which is dispersed over a wide area stretching from Catterall near Garstang to the west, Bilsborrow to the south and the Bowland Fells to the east.
The nucleus of the community served by St. Mary's consists of small clusters of tenanted farms and properties belonging to the Fitzherbert-Brockholes family and rented farms within a radius of 4 miles surrounding the school.
All pupils currently are of White British origin with English as their first language.
How the school has developed since the last inspection
St Mary’s was previously inspected in November 2008. Since the last inspection, all the points for development have been achieved. This is clearly shown by the rapid and sustained progress that all children make throughout their school life at St Mary’s.
The outstanding leadership of the headteacher, working together with an outstanding governing body, continues to highlight relevant and challenging areas for development. The leadership team, through rigorous analysis of data and challenging evaluation of action plans, recognise and accurately identifies aspects of the school’s curriculum for future develop to ensure that all pupils have access to outstanding provision.
St Mary’s is an outstanding Catholic Primary School. The first class leadership of the headteacher, combined with a highly committed governing body, mean that the overall effectiveness for the sustained catholic provision at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School is outstanding. The parish priest, chair and vice chair of governors, demonstrate absolute belief in the ability of the headteacher and the teaching team working under her guidance, to ensure that St. Mary’s will continue to provide outstanding Catholic education.
Christ is at the centre of the school community and gospel values permeate everything the school seeks to achieve. Pupils and staff feel a great sense of belonging and are extremely welcoming to visitors. The headteacher and parish priest work relentlessly to provide an environment where the school and church enable everyone within the school and the wider community to grow in faith. The school and the church are the centre of the community.
Excellent relationships and communication between home, school and parish are key strengths. Parents and parishioners have a high opinion of their school and welcome the opportunity to participate in school life. Third or fourth generations of pupils attend St Mary’s school confirming the support and standing the school has in the community. The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is very good.
Numerous opportunities for prayer and liturgical celebration are regularly provided and these are of the highest quality. The youngest children are skilfully guided in preparing prayer and liturgy by both teachers and by older children. As the children grow in their understanding, they are able to confidently articulate their faith and reverently lead and participate during times of prayer and liturgy.
The teaching of Religious Education throughout the school is outstanding. The curriculum is carefully planned and continually evaluated to enable the academic needs of all learners to be met. Teachers are highly skilled in teaching RE aided by the regular support of governors in providing good quality professional development.
Rigorous analysis of attainment clearly demonstrates rapid and sustained progress. The proportion of pupils making two levels of progress from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2, over the past three years has been 100%. Three levels of progress from the end of Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 over the same period, has grown from 37% to 75%.
The school’s RE curriculum is designed to guarantee that all children are challenged and inspired during their lessons. Observations of teaching and learning along with book scrutiny and pupil discussions confirm this. Teaching is consistently at least good and is in line with other core curriculum subjects. The curriculum effectively provides pupils with a deep insight into the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the relationship between faith and life.
WHAT THE SCHOOL NEEDS TO DO TO IMPROVE FURTHER
To improve further the school needs:
To give pupils more opportunity to increase their knowledge and experience of other cultures and lifestyles and thus their tolerance. By:
Promoting these issues through the curriculum;
Working alongside other schools, including those of other faiths, to share activities such as curriculum projects or assemblies.
Developing the use of new technologies to maximise learning opportunities.
To continue the deeper theological development of the pupils’ faith by continuing the development of the ‘open forum’ discussions that the pupils enjoy with the parish priest.
Part A: Catholic Life
The Catholic Life of the School
The extent to which pupils contribute to and benefit from the Catholic Life of the school
How well leaders and managers promote, monitor and evaluate the provision for the Catholic Life of the school
The quality of provision for the Catholic Life of the school
The mission statement for St Mary’s Catholic Primary is based on faith, love and achieving potential.All pupils, teachers, governors and parents are completely supportive of the Catholic ethos of the school and its mission is deeply embedded in all aspects of school life.
Pupils take full advantage of every opportunity provided for personal support and development. They speak with great enthusiasm, eloquence and pride about their involvement in their school and in the wider community. They can articulate clearly how their faith gives them a secure sense of belonging to the school and to the wider community. Examples include discussion with pupils around: ‘Harvest celebrations’ and ‘Remembrance reflections’. The school recently introduced a ‘Devotion to the most Holy Rosary’ through a Rosary Group.
Pupils prepare and lead Prayer and Liturgy with confidence and enthusiasm. This is only possible because of the skilled teaching of all staff in school. The headteacher models excellent practice. This was observed during the inspection. Pupils, over time, learn from her example when leading Prayer and Liturgy appropriate to their age and ability.
Relationships within the school are excellent. Pupils confidently explain how their school is “one big family” and how “everyone always makes sure everyone else is happy”. Discussions with pupils confirm that gospel values are articulated and demonstrated at an age-appropriate understanding. All pupils know who their parish priest is and have complete trust that he would know them. Older pupils discussed how they really enjoyed the parish priest talking to them in class and want this to continue so they can “ask difficult questions about our faith”.
Governors and school leaders are totally committed to the Church’s mission in education and are a source of inspiration for the whole community. The governors and the headteacher lead the school with the school’s mission clearly guiding their work. Governors challenge and support the headteacher to ensure, through rigorous self-evaluation, that they hold the school to account for its Catholic Life.
Through numerous visits, both formal and informal, the governors ensure that the Prayer is central to the life of the school. The parish priest leads by example; he regularly leads liturgical celebrations in the school. Along with monitoring teacher and pupil led prayer and liturgy, he ensures that they are of a high quality and key part of the life of the school.
The headteacher and governors plan the school’s calendar around the liturgical seasons and feasts making them focal points in the school’s life and enabling all in the school community to understand and engage with them.
The headteacher and governors demonstrate a relentless drive to make sure that partnerships within the school and church community work together for the common good. An example of this would be the outside prayer area that is open to the whole community within the school grounds. During Advent, a ‘Posada’ is sent home which is an additional way of involving the families in the prayer life of the school.
The governors, leaders and managers are fully committed to partnerships with the diocesan family of parishes and schools. Leaders have worked extremely hard to develop a ‘small school’ local Catholic cluster with the help and support of a diocesan local leader (LLDE). As part of the Our Lady’s Catholic High School family, the school participates in the annual Advent service organised for CAFOD.
The quality of provision for the Catholic Life of the school is outstanding. St Mary’s is a welcoming, inclusive and friendly community with a strong family ethos where everyone is valued and pupils and staff flourish. Governors, leaders and teachers have high expectations and a shared vision with regard to the Catholic mission and ethos. There is a tangible sense of family and community in all aspects of school life which is evident in the quality of relationships existing between all stakeholders.
Part B: Religious Education
The quality of Religious Education
How well pupils achieve and enjoy their learning in Religious Education
How well leaders and managers monitor and evaluate the provision for Religious Education
The quality of provision in Religious Education
Almost all pupils enjoy curriculum RE. Throughout lessons, pupils are actively engaged in their learning and enjoy the challenges the curriculum offers. Pupils comment on how they “really enjoy RE” and how, “during lessons we can learn about people from other faiths”. Pupils demonstrate an excellent understanding of the Catholic Faith and an awareness of the demands of religious commitment in everyday life. Older pupils commented on how they would like to learn more about people from other faiths. Governors and school leaders highlighted this as an area that had greatly improved since the last inspection, but recognise the need for continued development.
Pupils enter St Mary’s with baseline assessment indicating standards in RE are below average expectations. They make rapid progress through Reception and through Key Stage 1 so that by the end of the key stage pupils’ attainment is broadly in line with or above age expectations. Pupils continue to make rapid and sustained progress through Key Stage 2 resulting in standards that are in line with or exceeding, age related expectations. The headteacher attends external moderation meetings held by the diocese who validate these judgements.
Assessment data indicates that pupils with SEN make very good progress in RE. Pupils are encouraged to record and communicate their ideas using a range of strategies, including posters, prayer and sequencing activities, which assists those with language difficulties. Teachers and support staff plan and adapt resources to enable all pupils to focus on their understanding and learning so that pupils are not disadvantaged by poorer literacy skills in reading and writing.
The increase in the number of pupils achieving three levels of progress from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 over the past three years is clear evidence of the first class leadership and teaching of RE. This progress confirms the outstanding leadership displayed by the headteacher coupled with outstanding teaching though Key Stage 2.
The RE curriculum meets all the requirements of the Bishops’ Conference and is informed by the Curriculum Directory and the Diocesan document ‘Fit for Mission? Schools’. RE is at the centre of the school’s curriculum and is given priority in the ‘School’s Improvement Plan’ where targets are clearly identified to continue to maintain outstanding attainment and progress. The agendas and minutes from the governing body’s curriculum meetings were scrutinised through the inspection process to confirm there is good evidence of how well leaders and managers, including governors, monitor and evaluate provision for Religious Education.
The headteacher and governors are actively involved in a cycle of self-evaluation, rigorous monitoring and self-challenge. This demonstrates the school’s outstanding capacity for sustained improvement in RE.
Teachers’ planning is based on the RE core scheme ‘The Way, The Truth and The Life’ and teachers confidently enrich the curriculum with other valuable resources e.g. CAFOD’s Universal Church topics. This confirms the good quality professional development opportunities provided for staff. Excellent subject knowledge is applied consistently. Each class has an area for pupils to celebrate Prayer and Liturgy along with access to the designated prayer area for their own spiritual growth. During the inspection, pupils commented on their designated prayer areas and how these areas helped them to focus at times of prayer.
ICT is used regularly to support and challenge learning in RE. The development of new technologies will support the school to maximise the opportunities for pupils to continue to raise their knowledge and understanding of other religions. Marking and dialogue between adults and pupils is of a consistently high quality and pupils explained to inspectors how they regularly discuss their academic development with teachers. Pupils actively respond to marking and understand, at an age-appropriate level, how to improve their work.
Summary of Inspection Judgements
Capacity for sustained improvement
The extent to which pupils contribute to and benefit from the Catholic Life of the school.
How well leaders and managers promote and ensure provision for the Catholic Life of the school through monitoring and evaluation.
The quality of provision for the Catholic Life of the school.
How well pupils achieve and enjoy their learning in Religious Education.
How well leaders and managers monitor and evaluate the provision for Religious Education.
The quality of provision in Religious Education.
Leadership & Management
This Inspection Report is produced for the Rt. Reverend Séamus Cunningham the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, (c.f. Code Canon Law, 804, 806), and for the Governing Body of the school (Education Act 2005, Section 48). The inspection reviews, evaluates and plans further improvements in the school’s witness to the Catholic faith and Curriculum Religious Education. This process begins with the school’s own self-evaluation.
The inspection schedule follows criteria set by the National Board of Advisers and Inspectors.