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What the inspectors saw - Good practice by Ofsted

Emphasising the reception year: Shakespeare Infant SchoolIn brief

Shakespeare Infant School has placed extra emphasis on its reception classes, in particular by providing additional classroom assistants - a strategy that has led to significant improvements in pupils' readiness for Year 1.

The project

Shakespeare Infant School in Hampshire recognises the importance of getting its pupils off to the best possible start, so has been placing extra emphasis on children's progress in the reception year.

The staff and governors believe that the younger a child is, the more high-quality adult support they need. So, with support from the governors, the school has doubled the number of early-years assistants in its three reception classes from one to two. Teachers then make the most of this 1:10 staff-pupil ratio by working closely with the assistants and ensuring that they support children of all abilities, not just the lower achievers.

Pupils are regularly assessed and their progress is reviewed every fortnight, allowing the staff to see quickly who needs additional support and to gauge the effectiveness of new teaching approaches.

Staff have high expectations and believe that all children, bar those with identified specific learning needs, should have reached a "good level of development" by the time they leave reception (defined as achieving at least 78 points against the early years foundation stage profile).

"Happiness, high self-esteem, excellent behaviour and academic success in Year 1 are predicated on being a successful learner in the early years foundation stage," says headteacher Jane Skinner.

"By doing whatever it takes to ensure children's success we successfully reduce attainment gaps: for example, between children eligible for free school meals and those who are not."

The curriculum is also planned carefully to make it segue seamlessly into Year 1 and also to be as engaging as possible for the young learners. This year, for example, a topic on pirates was introduced to grab the attention of boys, although girls have enjoyed it equally.

As part of this topic, the children have counted treasure and added up how much they found, dressed up and role played being pirates, and practised blending letter sounds in words such as "sand" and "boat" using flashcards buried in sand.

The school emphasises helping its youngest pupils to become independent learners, with one staff member noting that "independence is not simply about being able to find the Lego".

Extra weight is also placed on phonics and on partnerships with parents and carers. Daily phonics sessions are held, with additional sessions for those who do not make the expected progress. Meanwhile, teachers have set up more opportunities for parents to come into the school, including to curriculum days and weekly open assemblies. They also survey families to gauge how their children are settling in.

Signs of success

In 2011, the first year after the number of early-years assistants was increased, the proportion of pupils reaching a good level of development reached 81 per cent, a 16 per cent rise. This year the figure increased again to just over 90 per cent. "This in turn is having a marked impact on attainment in Year 1," the inspectors note.

What the inspectors said

"These high aspirations for children mean that less favourable personal, social or economic circumstances are not accepted as reasons for underperformance and the vast majority of children reach a good level of development by the end of the reception year."

Read the full Ofsted case study report at: bit.lySj3NY5

The School

Name: Shakespeare Infant School

Location: Eastleigh, Hampshire

Pupils: About 238

Age range: 4-7

IntakeP: Deprivation indicators in the area, such as the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals, are roughly average, but rising.

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