Primary school makes "very strong progress" according to Estyn


Eight years after an Estyn report found a Cardiff primary school needed significant improvement and teaching standards unsatisfactory, inspectors have judged it to have made very strong progress in many areas.

Christ the King Roman Catholic school in Llanishen was monitored by Estyn for a year after its last report was published, in January 2015, but the latest investigation, conducted in February this year found improvements had been made in virtually all areas.

The school, which has 222 pupils, with 6.1% identified as having additional learning needs (ALN) - against a national average of 16.1% - provides a warm, inclusive learning environment for its pupils, said the report, in line with its motto - ‘Learning to love, loving to learn'.

It added that the school makes extensive use of its outdoor space, including a forest school area, and recent improvements to reading provision, including a new library, enable pupils to read for pleasure independently. The previous report said standards of literacy were not up to scratch.

Now, though, staff encourage pupils to become ambitious, confident learners. There are particularly beneficial opportunities for pupils to develop their speaking and thinking skills, and most older pupils read for pleasure while younger pupils make rapid progress with their writing skills.

In numeracy - another area that was criticised in the 2015 report - the report now found that most pupils develop strong numeracy skills during their time at the school.

It added that despite none of the pupils speaking Welsh at home, "younger pupils quickly learn to use Welsh greetings, to identify colours and to count. They sing songs and begin to say how they are feeling... most older pupils' Welsh skills develop successfully."

For pupils with ALN, staff track the progress of pupils carefully and they make the expected level of progress.

The headteacher, Susan Miles, who was appointed in September 2020, ensures that all staff have beneficial opportunities for professional development so they can fulfil their roles and all staff work very well as a team. "Relationships between staff and pupils across the school are highly supportive. Nearly all pupils enjoy coming to school and feel safe," adding, "most pupils behaviour is very good in lessons and in the playground."

The report identified only two areas for development, firstly the school were limited to how it ensures progression across all areas of learning and experience, and it also recommended that it extended opportunities for pupils to influence how and what they learn in lessons. "The school has not yet planned for the progression of pupils' creative skills in depth," said inspectors.

Welcoming the report, Mrs Miles said: "The report reflects a true picture of the nurturing environment in which the children in our school learn every day.

"The children show a real pride in their work and are eager to be the best that they can be. This can be seen in the high standards in their learning and in the respect that they show each for other.

"We all have a very strong sense of belonging to a thriving and supportive school community."

Cllr Sarah Merry, the council's Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills said she was delighted with the inspection. "Coming after the comments made in 2015, this is an excellent report and a great reflection of how much work has gone in to improving the school by the head and her staff.

"It also emphasises how well and hard the children at the school are working, and how much they enjoy their learning experiences. We look forward to continuing to work with the school as it moves forward and implements Estyn's recommendations."

Estyn has adopted a new approach to inspection in schools and Pupil Referral Units across Wales. Inspection reports will no longer include summative gradings (e.g. ‘Excellent', ‘Good' or ‘Adequate') and now focus on how well providers are helping a child to learn.

The new approach aligns with the personalisation of the new curriculum for Wales with inspections involving more in-person discussions, placing less emphasis on achievement data.

Estyn believe that the new inspection approach will make it easier for providers to gain meaningful insights that help them to improve without the spotlight on a judgement.