What the inspectors saw - Good practice spotted by Ofsted

15th February 2013 at 00:00
Performance management: Jubilee Park Primary

In brief

A drive to strengthen leadership and improve teaching and learning at the primary has been underpinned by innovative performance management. This has raised expectations, attendance and standards among pupils and staff.

The project

Six years ago, education at Jubilee Park Primary in Tipton, West Midlands, was judged mediocre. Expectations, attendance and attainment were low and the school was under considerable external pressure to improve.

With the biggest challenge being to raise teaching and learning standards, head Heidi Conner (pictured, right) introduced performance management procedures, together with a system for monitoring and evaluating staff.

"It was a very challenging time; the headteacher was relentless in improving teaching skills," one teacher recalls. Some staff found this didactic approach uncomfortable and left. But it worked: standards improved rapidly.

Pupils are given personal targets and time and support to achieve them. "The school's moral imperative is that all children will succeed," Conner says. "We don't accept background, race or gender as excuses for underachievement. The children thrive in this atmosphere and aim high."

The second priority was to improve leadership standards by introducing an academic coaching model. All teachers and school leaders now have weekly meetings with a mentor to develop their skills.

The school has also taken steps to help new staff quickly adapt to and adopt the school's ethos. All teachers are expected to plan "learning journeys" for pupils and demonstrate that they can do this independently and to a high standard within a term. Satisfactory teaching is not tolerated.

When the government recommends an emphasis on a particular aspect of the curriculum the school will make changes only if they suit the pupils' needs. For example, the national strategies for literacy and numeracy were implemented based on the teachers' view of what was best for their pupils. Previously in the Early Years Foundation Stage, low expectations in reading and writing meant children did not have access to more advanced phonics work. When the school made fundamental changes, staff were delighted at what some children achieved.

The approach is also collegiate: teachers make recommendations for change and trial the ideas in their classes before they are adopted by other staff.

Attendance, which was lower than the national average, has also been improved through a zero-tolerance policy that involves discussions with parents and carers. When a pupil's attendance dips below 95 per cent, a warning letter, which also offers advice and support, is sent to parents and carers. On the first day of absence, families are visited by the attendance officer and the head has also occasionally knocked on doors.

Signs of success

"In the past six years the headteacher has instilled high expectations that extend to the governing body, all staff, pupils and their parents and carers," says Derek Rowley, chair of governors. "The whole community now believes that our children can achieve well, which was not the case in the past." Attendance has risen to 97.9 per cent and the school's approach has been adopted by all other local schools.

What the inspectors said

"Pupils make rapid progress from low starting points and they leave well prepared for the next stage in their education. A relentless drive to strengthen leadership, teaching and learning has been central to this improvement. Innovative performance management has raised expectations. Key to this is the belief in appointing, coaching and retaining high-quality teachers."

Read the full Ofsted case study report at bit.lyOHtK1Y


Name: Jubilee Park Primary School

Location: Tipton, West Midlands

Type: Mixed junior school and nursery

Age range: 3-11

Number of pupils: 217

Intake: Diverse but mostly from white British backgrounds.

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