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Section 23 Inspection

Report to the Governors of Hethersett VC Middle School under Section 23 of the Education (Schools) Act, 1996

1. Introduction

The School

Hethersett Middle School is a Church of England Voluntary Controlled School serving the catchment area of Hethersett, Ketteringham, Little Melton, Great Melton and Colney. Children from other areas are admitted in response to parental request if places are available.

The school was founded in the 19th century, but the whereabouts of the Trust Deed are not known. The original building has been considerably extended and currently provides some very pleasant accommodation, extremely attractive grounds, and a swimming pool. The children express appreciation of their environment and they clearly respect it. The whole campus is kept in very good order; the classrooms and corridors are made colourful and interesting with display of a very high quality, and some attractive equipment, appropriately designed and positioned, provides added play opportunities outside. There is a very welcoming atmosphere about the school. It is bright, visibly cheerful and very evidently alive. It is good to see a copy of the Mission Statement displayed in the entrance foyer.

Admissions

The Admissions Policy is published in the school brochure, and is fully in accordance with the Local Education Authority guidelines. The school has become very popular and there have been three appeals for admission in the last two and a half years, all of which had to be refused at the time because the school was full. However, as the school takes the trouble to keep records and to contact parents if places later become available two of the children are now on roll.

Pupil Numbers and Staffing

At the time of the Inspection there were 271 pupils on roll, and the Full-time Staffing Equivalent was 12.3, including the Headmaster. The teaching staff are well supported by a committed team of a Special Needs Teacher, Classroom Assistants, Administrative Staff, and Midday Supervisory Assistants.

2. Previous Inspection Report, August 1997.

The Key Issues for Action identified were:- The Governors, Headmaster and Staff should take encouragement from the many good features about the school but the issues for the Governing Body to address are:

 

Raise the profile of the school, particularly to parents and children, as one of Christian and Anglican foundation. This to include a Mission Statement that reflects the whole rationale of the school's aims, purposes and policies.

Prepare a policy document on worship in the school, separate from that on assemblies and RE, that identifies the Anglican influence on the worship.

To investigate, through discussion, how the parish priest might be involved as an integral part in the provision of worship.

Draw up an integrated programme of worship, alongside assembly themes, linked where practicable to the RE and the broader curriculum.

The Governors to agree ways of monitoring the collective worship in the school.

Review ways in which experience and development of spirituality could be extended.

The Inspector is satisfied that the school has paid proper attention to and made good and appropriate progress on all these issues with the exception of No.5 where further progress needs to be made.

3. Ethos

This school has a buzz about it. From the moment one is met by the colourful display and general welcoming attractiveness of the entrance foyer there is no mistaking that the school is alive, open, people-friendly and going places.

However, it is also evident that the liveliness is purposeful. The children and staff have happy faces, everyone is courteous, the children are well-behaved about the school and their standard of personal appearance is very high. This results in a very positive atmosphere, and a feeling of stability and security.

In the absence of a Trust Deed, the school's commitment to its Christian (Anglican) foundation is clearly declared in the Mission Statement, Aims and information about many areas of school life published in the brochure, and as a thread drawn consistently across the school's policies in general, including the Home School Agreement.

That this commitment is living and active as opposed to merely academic is evidenced in the fundamentals of the daily life of the school.

In:-

 

The positive approach to behaviour and to admonishment when it is necessary

the relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves, and in a strong sense of team and comradeship amongst the staff

the care of the children; the giving of praise and encouragement, the celebration of achievement, the promotion of positive attitudes and values

the active support of the Vicar, Foundation Governors and PCC.

the cross in the Hall, the monthly, all-age community group worship held in the school, the weekly lunch-time staff prayer group, and the school services held in the Parish church at Harvest, Easter and for the leavers.


The ethos of the school envelops the children in an environment which strongly nurtures their personal, social, moral, physical and spiritual development. During her time with the pupils and the staff the Inspector saw much evidence of:-

encouragement of the children's spiritual development (i.e. pertaining to all that is of the human spirit, including, but not exclusively about, religious experience). A general sense of appreciation of creativity, personal talent and quality, the high standard of display, care of the buildings and grounds, and the high calibre of the Art and Music experience available to the children all contribute to this.

mutual care and respect amongst everyone in school

children learning to celebrate other people's achievements

"windows" open to the world beyond school - active participation in the community, the overseas link, and an awareness of local and world events and issues.

encouragement of personal and team effort, the House system making a useful contribution to this

provision of opportunities to develop skills of handing responsibility to others as well as self-helping in the library, manning the telephone, rung the school Bank, looking after visitors, managing lost property, liaising with outside agencies, and helping younger pupils.

Parents and the community respond to its out-going approach with strong support for the School. The P.T.A. is very active, and at least 9 parents (including a grandfather) help in the school every week.

There is much evidence to show that the children's daily experience of all that school is, is a living expression of its Mission Statement and Aims, and that this is achieved through the commitment of the whole staff team.

4. Collective Worship

(i) The school provides a daily act of collective worship for all its pupils in accordance with the requirements of the 1988 Education Act. Parents are informed in the brochure of their right to withdraw their child from worship; but there are currently no withdrawals.

 

(ii) Planning and Organisation

The school policy statement on collective worship provides a basic framework to guide planning and a list of objectives. However, it currently lacks what should be the core component, namely a Statement of Aims.

A worship record is kept, and this shows that planning and preparation and the resulting experience for the children are all in accordance with the present policy. It also provides evidence that the themes and topics covered are appropriate to the children's age and experience. They are both relevant to the pupils' daily lives and extend their thinking beyond their immediate environment and life-style to those of other cultures.

The weekly pattern for Assembly and the worship element which is central to it is set out in the policy. The Headmaster leads it at least once each week, and the Vicar, or from time to time another local church visitor, every Monday. All the teaching staff lead worship on a rota basis. The class is usually very involved, giving the children opportunities to acquire and practise a range of planning and presentation skills. The Vicar's input follows a developing theme across the Half-Term or Term, whilst the staff are free to choose their own topics within the policy guidelines. The pattern thus provides for both continuity and variety, and allows the school flexibility for spontaneous response to particular circumstances.

There is a reasonable range of source material to support Worship planning, although teachers' creativity and ingenuity in finding and devising their own resources provided the magnet for the children's attention and enjoyment on the two occasions attended by the Inspector, both of which had been planned with care and commitment. New resources are purchased when considered likely to be of value.

The whole school always assembles together, and it does so at the beginning of each school day. This sets the tone for the day, makes for good communication, and nurtures strong school family bonding.

(iii) The delivery of Worship.

Both Assemblies attended by the Inspector were lively and interesting, immediately relevant to the children's experience, cheerful, very positive, and warm. There was a strong sense of "family" embracing every child. The children had entered, to quiet music, in a very orderly manner, and they left in the same way, having been extremely well- behaved throughout.

On both occasions the Staff leading worship did so with a high degree of professional skill. Both were natural communicators with children, and there was spontaneity, humour, sensitivity and always well balanced control. The full extent of the age and ability range was well managed and there was something of worth to be gained for every child. The pupils were fully involved whether as presenters or participants. They sang heartily to lively piano accompaniment, and approached the prayers reverently and with every indication of sincere response.

Both occasions provided nurture for the children's spiritual development through Worship. The prayers offered were simple and meaningful to the children. The teaching was well illustrated through activity and story, and time was given during which the children were encouraged to reflect upon all that had been happening, thus enabling them to experience quietness as an aspect of worship - a powerful spiritual element.

The Friday celebration Assembly was much enhanced by the orchestra's contribution, which was of a very high quality, especially for such young musicians and with so little time available for practice.

The celebration of achievement through the use of the particular talents given to you, both for your own satisfaction and to help and inspire others, featured strongly in both Assemblies, and flowed naturally into the devotional part of them. Indeed, the weekly celebration of individual and team effort, achievement and attainment across all aspects of school life on Fridays, and the recognition of other special achievements on Tuesdays continually feeds and stimulates the positive culture of this school, which, as a result, continually finds itself with so much to celebrate. And celebration - rejoicing and giving thanks - lies at the heart of worship and is a strongly spiritual experience. Perhaps the significance of the simple cross on the wall could feature more frequently as a focus for thanksgiving, reflection or prayer.

(iv) Conclusions

The Inspector concludes that the policies of the school and the commitment of all who lead worship result in the delivery of a worship experience for all the pupils which nurtures their lull development as whole people, firmly underpins the School's Christian ethos, and is fundamental to the fulfilment of its Mission Statement and Aims.

The Governors and Staff, themselves, have much good practice to celebrate.

 

5. Key Issues for Action

(i) The Governors should continue to develop their support for all who contribute to the provision of collective worship to ensure that the quality and good practice noted in this report are sustained and built-upon.

(ii) The Governors and staff together should identify and set down in the Policy Statement the aims of the collective worship provided for the pupils. These Aims should:-

reflect and support the Mission Statement, Aims and other policies of the school

identify the special contribution they wish the children's experience of worship at the school to make to their over-all development, especially the spiritual dimension.

(iii) The Governors, in consultation with the Headmaster, should agree strategies by which they can monitor the collective worship provided, and should identify some quality and effectiveness indicators so that policy review may be informed, meaningful and developmental.