Hackthorn Church of England Primary
Headteacher: Mr M Oyston
Inspector: Mr J Prior
Dates of inspection: June 2005
Hackthorn Church of England Primary School is an extremely good example of a small rural Voluntary Controlled School in a village to the North of Lincoln.
The school buildings are a mixture of a19th century original with more recent additions that have produced a good working environment for the pupils. There are some drawbacks which, if it was not for the very imaginative planning and intelligent use of the space on the part of the staff, could restrict the work the pupils do. As it is, there are one or two aspects of physical education, on the one hand; and the creation of a special space for collective worship on the other, which are inhibited because the only “hall “ space is an extension of a classroom.
The hard play area and playing field are of an appropriate size for the number of pupils; in addition there is a very attractive garden with seats and a pergola, provided and maintained by the Friends of the School. It has in it a beautifully lettered stone produced by a local stone mason/letterer who has a national reputation, and a “magical” carved Owl some five or six times life size, the gift of a well known local sculptor in wood, which appeared in the garden one night. This garden is very well used by the pupils at playtime as a quiet area, a place to meet and talk with friends, a calm spot because it is a place of beauty.
The school is in the centre of the small village and provides a focus for village life along with the Church and the well appointed Village Hall which are both some distance from the school.
Many of the pupils come from surrounding villages or even from more distant towns such as Market Rasen, drawn by the good reputation which the school has, and has had, for a number of years.
Three visits were made to the school. Documentation was scrutinised. Interviews were held with the Headteacher, the teaching and support staff, governors, including the Chair, the Bishop’s Visitor, some parents and some of the older pupils. Two acts of worship were observed, one of which was the weekly celebration assembly which a dozen or more parents attended.
The policy covering admissions to the school pays particular attention to its village character. Children attend full time from the September following their fourth birthday. In the event of demand for places outstripping the number of vacancies; as well as criteria based on parental preference, medical and family criteria; a religious affiliation is the fourth criterion out of five. A significant proportion of parents choose the school because of its Christian character. Another significant group do so because this character produces a school with a coherent and attractive set of values which are absorbed by the children.
The Ethos of the School
The school successfully delivers the high aspirations contained in its statement of ethos. The pupils’ talents are well nourished by the sound education provided. They enjoy a happy and caring environment in which they develop a thirst for knowledge and a desire to learn, fostering a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for what the school, and the world, has to offer. A clear set of values, based on an observable Christian foundation, underpin the work of the school and inform the very good relationships between the pupils and with the staff which it promotes. As a result the pupils develop into very self-reliant, confidant and responsible young people who can be depended upon to behave very well in any situation whether directly under the control of their teachers or not. The school community is one in which tolerance, consideration for others and a sense of partnership are found as a result of the clear example set for the pupils by the adults around them. They develop a very clear understanding of right and wrong and a strong sense of moral responsibility. The Provision for moral development is very good.
As pupils grow older they are given and accept a widening range of responsibilities. In a practical way this serves to develop a very good understanding of how communities and societies develop. Consequently the provision for their social development and its outcome are very good indeed.
The provision for the pupils’ spiritual development is excellent, and the outcome impressive. The close relationship with the Church, the regular visits for worship of the incumbent and the careful concern for the pupils’ self-esteem, and the open access to a very wide range of musical, literary and artistic stimuli which the pupils receive, all contribute to this. Pupils understand about prayer and know the Lord’s Prayer and other familiar ones, using them with meaning.
Powerful contributing factors are the enthusiastic, imaginative, enjoyable and thoughtful acts of worship in which the whole school, staff and visitors as well as pupils are caught up. The generosity and humour with which the Head and staff share their thoughts and skills in assemblies makes the claim that the school is like a family into a reality rather than simply a set of words. Pupils feel valued in the school and as a result they have the ability to respond to the needs of others which they do through the charities they support as well as in their concern for one another.
The pupils learn a good deal about cultures and faiths other than their own. There is a very good pattern of visits to places of worship belonging to faiths other than Christianity, and of visitors bringing in a wide range of cultural ideas, of music and literature. As a result their cultural development is very good and the pupils are very tolerant of diversity in one another and of others whom they meet.
It is clear from the conversations with parents and from the school’s own enquiries that parents very much appreciate the strength of this aspect of the school’s life.
The pastoral organisation of the school is very good. Pupils all know and trust an adult to whom they can turn if they are unhappy or worried. There is also a sense of mutual trust and support among the adults of the school. This strength has helped the school to manage the long term illness of a member of staff after a road accident very well indeed. The Parish has also played its part in underpinning this pastoral strength. The two class structure of the school is managed very flexibly so that pupils are given many opportunities to know and be known by the members of staff.
There are very good links with the Parish and the local community. The governors are active and very involved in all aspects of the life of the school.
The incumbent is a well known and respected figure in the school and is heavily involved in the pupils’ spiritual development as it impinges upon the Church. In the current year four pupils have been prepared for confirmation from the school; this is a very significant proportion of the older pupils.
The school makes use of training and support opportunities offered by the Diocese, and the Bishop’s Visitor is playing an increasing role in the life of the school as she finds her niche there.
The recent national initiative “Every Child Matters” has long been pre-empted by Hackthorn School, where actually “Everybody Matters” is a lived motto. The attention paid to the pupils’ individual needs means that the provision for equal opportunities, special educational needs and measures to combat racism and so on are not matters of policy but integral to the whole way in which the school works. This was beginning to be apparent at the time of the previous inspection, but is crystal clear now.
The provision for Collective Worship which takes place daily is very good indeed.. Once a month it is led by the Parish Priest, and on Fridays the week’s work is celebrated with the parents present.
The pupils assemble in a part of the large classroom used by the younger pupils. There is plenty of space, and it is used imaginatively. A focus for worship is provided by a candle. However the nature of the space as a corner of a classroom cannot be disguised. It may be that the understanding of worship as a normal part of living might be emphasised by this situation; but some of the awe and special character of worship is at risk. The use of music and other features helps to maintain this characteristic of worship. It would be good, however, for the school to have a special space; also available for dance, gymnastics and other activities; without the upset currently undergone.
The programme of worship is a central feature in the communication of the school’s ethos and the Headteacher’s vision for the school to the pupils, staff and parents. It is relevant to the pupils’ lives and experience, provides them with intellectual, moral and spiritual insights, such as the challenge to reflect on a phrase drawn from a “Coronation Street” excerpt “You need roots to grow and wings to fly” given in an assembly. Music is used very effectively in the acts of worship and this adds a great deal to the pupils’ cultural development.
There has been steady and very positive progress since the previous inspection, and the school has done very well to have maintained, even extended, the breadth of the pupils’ experience.
The school makes very good use of its size to provide a very good rounded education and set of opportunities for the personal development of all its pupils.
The school has developed a very coherent, effective and unaggressive Christian foundation which gives a significant added value to all it does
Issue for Development
The school should continue to hold fast to its vision to provide a broad, balanced, relevant and humane education for its pupils within the broad Christian tradition which it represents, whatever the external pressures.