Inspectors praise faith school for support of pupils with additional learning needs

A faith school in Cardiff has been praised by education inspectors for its strong support of pupils with additional learning needs.

St Francis Roman Catholic Primary School, in Ely, has 352 pupils on its roll, with 48 in nursery classes. Just over half (51.9%) are eligible for free school meals while 16.3% have additional learning needs (ALN). For around 17% of pupils, English is not their first language.

The report said that leaders, teachers and support staff work hard to create a safe and happy school. “Parents and carers are positive about the school’s support for their children, families and the community,” it added.

“They praise leaders and teachers who go out of their way to make sure that all is well at home. Most pupils are confident and friendly and they feel safe and know that there is always someone to help and support them when they need it.”

The inspectors were particularly impressed with the school’s vision to make sure pupils have equal opportunities to achieve excellence. “This can be clearly seen in its strong support for pupil’s additional needs,” they said. “Leaders carefully consider ways to combat disadvantage and to provide high quality support for those with ALN.

“Staff, including teaching assistants, ensure that these pupils make good progress in their work. School staff also provide space for pupils to deal positively with their emotions and support them to create good relationships with staff and other pupils.”

They added: “The school has robust and effective systems to meet the additional needs of learners. This is a strength of the school.”

However, the report notes that there are areas where the school can make improvements. While pupils develop strong literacy skills in English, it said, “opportunities for pupils to practise other important skills such as numeracy and digital skills are fewer and for a minority of pupils these tasks are not challenging enough.”

It also pointed out:

  • Pupils do not have enough opportunities to influence school life
  • Teachers do not plan enough opportunities for pupils to become independent learners, and
  • Do not regularly share the good practice in the school with each other often enough

The school will now draw up an action plan to address the report’s recommendations, including ensuring that leaders focus better on addressing the variability in the quality of teaching.

St Francis headteacher Marie Langsdale said: “The school community is pleased that the Estyn report recognised the hard work and progress the school is making.

“We are particularly proud of our strong support for pupils with ALN as well as the nurturing, caring environment, underpinned by an ethos of tolerance, kindness and respect which ensures that pupils feel safe.

“We will continue to work with Cardiff Council and the Central South Consortium to secure ongoing improvement.”

Alex Kydd, the chair of St Francis governors, said she was pleased the Estyn report reflected the hard work and progress of the school community. It also acknowledged that the school is a calm safe place for pupils as they learn.

“The governors will continue to work with school, the Local Authority and Consortium to ensure this this progress continues to move the school forward,” she added.

Cllr Sarah Merry, Cardiff Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said she was pleased with the progress that St Francis was making and for its excellent support of pupils with ALN. “It’s clear, though, that there are areas that can be improved and we will work closely with Estyn to review the school’s progress.”