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Park Hall School : Ofsted Report

30-31 January 2008
Reporting Inspector: 
David Martin HMI
Description of the school: 

Park Hall is a larger than average school with a small sixth form. The proportion of students eligible for free school meals is a little higher than average as is the proportion from disadvantaged backgrounds. The proportion of students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is average, but a smaller proportion than average has statements of particular need. The majority of students are of White British heritage and the school has a slightly smaller proportion than average of students from minority ethnic heritage. Few pupils are learning English as an additional language. The school now works in partnership with another successful specialist school. The recently appointed headteacher leads both schools, having previously worked as a consultant headteacher.

Overall effectiveness and Average across all judgements

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Leadership, management and capacity for school improvement

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Overall achievement & academic performance

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Care, Guidance and Personal development

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Ofsted assessment

In accordance with section 13 (4) of the Education Act 2005, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (HMCI) is of the opinion that the school no longer requires special measures. Nevertheless, in accordance with section 13 (3) of the Education Act 2005, HMCI is of the opinion that this school requires significant improvement, because it is performing significantly less well than in all the circumstances it could reasonably be expected to perform. The school is therefore given a Notice to Improve. Significant improvement is required in relation to the progress made by students, particularly in core subjects.

Park Hall School has made significant improvement since the previous inspection and the special measures monitoring visit by HMI in June 2007. This is particularly true in relation to behaviour, attendance, teaching and learning, the monitoring of lessons and the progress of students. Recent changes in the leadership of the school and partnership arrangements have given the school a renewed sense of direction. However, the progress that students make in core subjects, although improved, is still inadequate.

The headteacher has already made a noticeable difference and provides a new sense of confidence and optimism amongst staff, students and parents. Changes to the curriculum at Key Stage 4 are having a real impact on performance as they now better meet students' needs and interests. Increased staff presence around the school is having a positive effect on students' attitudes and behaviour. More thorough monitoring by middle managers is enabling them to know what needs to be improved, but is not yet fully embedded. Leaders and managers are increasingly accountable for success in their areas of work, notably through the 'mini-school' arrangements. Governors are well informed and more able to hold the school to account. Consequently, the school now has satisfactory capacity to move forward. The school's self-evaluation already shows some improvement in students' progress, after three years when progress has been exceptionally poor. However, the progress that students make from their starting points remains poor in English and mathematics at Key Stage 4. Standards of attainment are below average. The value for money offered by the school is therefore still inadequate.

Teaching has improved and is now satisfactory. It remains inconsistent however, particularly in core subjects, limiting the rate of progress that students make. Partnership working has already played a major role in raising teachers' expectations and improving planning and delivery. The school has much more data about student attainment that it uses to identify underachievement. The next step is to ensure that teachers use this information to match work more closely to students' needs and to help them know their next steps in learning. The introduction of a range of successful vocational courses has shown how students can be more actively engaged in their own learning. There are plans to extend this provision, which students find relevant and exciting, across more areas of learning.

Students' personal development is satisfactory. They feel well cared for and are increasingly involved in taking responsibility. Students feel safe, increasingly enjoy school, and are encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles. Attendance and behaviour have improved and students appreciate the school's good provision for personal, social and health education and citizenship. However, the school is aware that support for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is weak.

What can be improved

  • Improve the quality of teaching in order to accelerate the progress that students make in core subjects, particularly at Key Stage 4.
  • Share effective classroom practice more widely to ensure that a higher proportion of teaching is good.
  • Improve the coordination of provision for pupils with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.

Achievement and standards

Grade: 4

Grade for sixth form: 2

Students join the school with attainment that is broadly average. Standards at Key Stage 3 in the 2007 tests were well below average overall and exceptionally low in mathematics. This has been the pattern for several years. There has also been significant underperformance at higher levels by the end of year 9, particularly in mathematics and science. Progress at Key Stage 3 has therefore been inadequate over the last three years. At Key Stage 4, overall standards were exceptionally low in 2007. The number of students attaining five A* to C grades at GCSE including English and mathematics improved, but were significantly below expected levels. Too many students, however, underachieved or failed to pass one GCSE. Progress from Key Stage 2 to 4 was therefore also inadequate, and has been for three years.
Recent assessment information indicates that many students are now making better progress than those seen in the 2007 results. This is partly because around half of the Year 11 students are studying appropriate vocational courses. However, achievement in English and mathematics remains significantly below expected levels. In addition, the progress seen in too many core subject lessons remains only satisfactory and is weak in a few lessons, particularly in mathematics. Students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities also make poor progress. The targets set for future performance are increasingly ambitious and the tracking of students' progress, at both whole school level and in the classroom, are greatly improved.

Standards are average and progress is good in the sixth form.

Progress of Special Needs learners, and equality of opportunity

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Behaviour & attendance of learners

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Curriculum and Teaching

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