SIAMS Inspection 2014

National Society Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools Report

Grassington Church of England  Voluntary Controlled Primary School

Acre Lane


BD23 5LB

Diocese:                                         West Yorkshire and the Dales

Local authority:                                 North Yorkshire

Dates of inspection:                          6 May 2014

Date of last inspection:                     20 January 2009

School’s unique reference number:   121563

Headteacher:                                   Mrs Libby Wheildon

Inspector’s name and number:          Geraldine Cooper (696)

School context

Grassington Church of England VC Primary school is a small rural school serving the village of Grassington and the surrounding, predominantly farming, community. There are 62 pupils on roll, taught in three mixed age classes. The majority of pupils are of white British origin. The number of pupils eligible for pupil premium is below the national average. Since the previous inspection there has been a period of instability during a local authority primary school review. A new headteacher has been in post since September.

The distinctiveness and effectiveness of Grassington VC as a Church of England school are good.

  • The headteacher and incumbent have a very clear vision for the school as a church school which is shared with all stakeholders.
  • The recognition given to the importance of critical self evaluation as a distinctively Church school.
  • The involvement of pupils, through the collective worship committee, in planning and delivering collective worship.
  • The provision of a stimulating environment in which pupils are confident and able to flourish.

Areas to improve

  • Develop more rigorous self evaluation procedures to assess the impact of the school’s distinctive Christian character on pupil progress and spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
  • Extend the role of the collective worship committee, in conjunction with the foundation governors, to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of collective worship in promoting a knowledge and understanding of Christian teaching and tradition.
  • Provide sustained opportunities for the development of pupils’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of national and global diversity.

The school, through its distinctive Christian character, is good at meeting the needs of all learners.

Pupils are happy and confident in the caring and obviously Christian environment that the school offers. Pupils know and understand the 7C’s of care, consideration, confidence, courtesy, co-operation and communication, which form the school’s strategy for effective learning. Parents feel that the school encourages and enables their children to persevere and that this is reflected in the progress that they make. There is a real sense of family, particularly at lunchtime, as older pupils serve younger ones. Pupils have a natural sense of care and consideration for others which parents rightly ascribe to the example set by staff. The Christian ethos of the school is particularly evident in the commitment with which the school has developed systems and strategies to ensure that all pupils are fully integrated and included in a safe learning environment. Pupils have a compassionate understanding of the needs of their peers and readily show delight in their success. The importance of spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is recognised through a wide variety of planned enrichment opportunities which form part of a broad and balanced curriculum. Reflection areas have been created in each classroom, these provide a focus for class worship and give pupils access to Bible stories and prayers. ‘Reflections’ books provide a record of pupils’ work in RE. It is evident that pupils have the opportunity to study a range of world faiths and that they are able to explore RE through the use of enquiry and big questions. Progress in RE would be enhanced by a more detailed linking of assessment for learning with learning outcomes and more structured models of enquiry. Pupils have been given the opportunity to encounter and respect cultural and religious diversity through curriculum projects such as Chembokali and through links with schools in the wider locality and internationally.  These links could be developed to offer a more sustained experience of cultural diversity.

The impact of collective worship on the school community is good.

Pupils have the opportunity to experience and engage with the variety of traditions of Christian worship due to the well established contacts which the school has made with local churches. Clergy are complimentary about the high priority that the school gives to collective worship. The school has an effective planning process which ensures that there is a thematic structure to worship. Initial teacher training students speak of the atmosphere of encouragement in the school and the emphasis placed on collective worship which they ascribe specifically to the school’s Christian ethos. A collective worship committee has been established and pupils value the opportunity to engage in planning and leading worship, “determining and being ‘determined about’ all aspects of worship”. It would be beneficial to the school to extend the role of this group to include the formal monitoring and evaluation of collective worship. Worship committee members were observed taking a significant lead in collective worship which was on the theme of peace and used a wide range of strategies to link the teachings of Jesus with pupils’ personal experiences. All pupils had a sense of calm and engagement, they spoke the Lord’s prayer and school prayer with confidence and their singing was sensitive and appropriate to the nature of the song.  ‘Shalom’. The significance of music in pupils’ spiritual development is clearly recognised by the head teacher and her use of music at the start of the school day and as pupils gather for worship is very effective. A stronger use of symbolism, eg through the lighting and extinguishing of a candle would enhance the sense of collective worship being a spiritual occasion. The incumbent speaks very positively about pupils’ receptiveness to worship in the Anglican tradition, to their apparent engagement with God and understanding of Jesus as being present. He spoke of the way in which pupils participated in an Ash Wednesday liturgy and of their empathetic response. It was evident from conversations with pupils that the 7C’s have been explained in the context of the life and teachings of Jesus, however, it is important that this is revisited so that the distinctively Christian ethos of the school is maintained and enhanced. The school visits the church each term for seasonal celebrations, culminating in the annual leavers’ service. Pupils also attend a Diocesan Leavers’ Service at Ripon Cathedral. Parents speak very positively of the opportunities to share these special services and also to attend the weekly ‘Praise’ worship.

The effectiveness of the leadership and management of the school as a church school is good

The new head teacher has a clear vision of the school as a church school which is shared with, and by, the staff and governing body. Self evaluation, in accordance with new inspection criteria is developing and the headteacher and governing body have made an accurate and critical appraisal of the schools strengths and weaknesses. They talk of ‘the journey that they are on’ and this is made explicit in the school development plan which is monitored regularly at Governors meetings. The incumbent speaks with enthusiasm about the strengthening of the schools Christian distinctiveness and about the improved links between school and church. The head teacher reports regularly on school life in the parish magazine and pupils’ work is displayed in Church House, Grassington. There is a clear understanding, shared by parents, that it is the contribution of the distinctively Christian ethos of the school which enhances pupils understanding and learning. Attainment is carefully monitored with sensitively applied intervention enhancing pupil progress. An effectively led school council enables pupils to contribute to the smooth running of the school, ensuring that children are conscious of the needs of others, promote health and safety and participate in decision making  eg the development of an outdoor ‘reflection space’. The school participates fully in the life of the community, pupils had recently danced around the may pole in the village square. At Christmas pupils raised money for charity as part of the Dickensian festival. Staff take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with schools in the Upper Wharfedale Cluster which contributes to their professional development. Participation in cluster events also broadens pupil experience and improves their understanding of the wider community through increased access to a range of sporting and cultural activities. Participation in cluster events enables pupils to make a smooth transition to secondary school. Staff and Governors have had the benefit of some Diocesan training and recognise the importance of accessing support from the Diocese as they develop their distinctiveness as a Church school.