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Al-Aqsa Primary School

Inspection report

This inspection was carried out under section 162 (A) of the Education Act 2002 as
amended. Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI) has been approved by the Secretary of
State in the Department for Education (DfE) to undertake inspections in designated
independent schools within membership of the Christian Schools Trust (CST) or the
Association of Muslim Schools UK (AMSUK).

DfE number: 856/6017


Association: AMSUK
Date of inspection: 18th-21st October 2010
Lead Inspector: Mr C Schenk
Team inspectors: Mrs H Aslam
Miss J Morgan

Age range of pupils: 3-11 years


Number on roll: 210
Full-time: 71 boys 101 girls
Part-time: 19 boys 19 girls
Number of pupils with
a statement of special
educational need: 1

Proprietor: Al-Aqsa Schools Trust


Head teacher: Mrs F D’Oyen
Address of school: The Wayne Way
Leicester
LE5 4PP

Telephone number: 0116 2760953


Email: admin@alaqsaschool.co.uk
The purpose and scope of the inspection

The main purpose of the inspection is twofold. It is to advise the DfE whether the
school continues to meet the requirements for registration, and to determine whether
the school’s religious ethos continues to meet the expectations of its association.
Ofsted monitors the work of independent inspectorates, including a sample of
inspections, and you can find the latest evaluation of the work of The Bridge Schools
Inspectorate on the Ofsted website.

Information about the school

Al-Aqsa Primary School started in September 1998 in premises rented from the
Islamic Foundation at the Markfield Conference Centre, some ten miles outside
Leicester. The school moved in 2004 to a former infant school site in the city of
Leicester and now has eight classes, one for each year group from Reception to
Year 6, as well as two part-time nursery classes, one in the morning and one in the
afternoon. There are 30 full-time and 38 part-time pupils in the Early Years
Foundation Stage (EYFS) aged between three and five; 54 pupils in Key Stage 1
aged between five and seven; and 88 in Key Stage 2 aged between seven and
eleven. Over the years, there has been a high turnover of teachers, due mainly to
marriage and maternity leave, and seven are new to the school this year, including
the head teacher. The school was last inspected, by Ofsted, in November 2007.

The school’s aims are stated as follows. ‘The school seeks:

• To develop the whole personality of pupils with Tawheed at the core and
Islam as the main focus of their lives.
• To acquire a moral attitude to life through conscientious awareness and the
practice of Divine Guidance in all their affairs and transactions.
• To encourage the pursuit and acquisition of general knowledge and skills.
• To promote the dignity of each young person through self-respect, respect for
parents, elders and others, through the development of personal
responsibility.
• To help young people to understand the complexity of the world in which they
live and that their own well-being is closely connected to the well-being of
others.
• To develop an understanding of, and respect for, differences that exist in
multi-cultural, multi-faith British society.
• To ensure that young people enjoy their life at school and develop a love of
learning and a strong desire to continue their education as a lifelong
experience.’

Evaluation of the school

The school meets its aims well. Pupils enjoy their learning and are becoming
independent learners who think for themselves. They show responsibility and
maturity in their attitudes to others and their behaviour is excellent. Because they
have been involved in formulating the school and class rules, they are developing a
good understanding of the principles upon which they are based and their moral
development is outstanding. A new curriculum, implemented this term, gives them a

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coherent and interesting programme of work in which Islamic attitudes and ideas
form a common strand that runs through every aspect of school life. Together with
regular prayers, assemblies and circle times, this results in outstanding spiritual
development. While the curriculum is broad, its balance needs some adjustment; for
example, pupils do not have enough opportunities to develop their artistic and
creative skills. Much of the teaching is good and some is outstanding, but there is
too much variation in quality between different classes. The number of teaching
assistants is good, but their valuable contribution is underused. Pupils make a good
start in the EYFS and their enthusiasm for learning carries through into the primary
years and is particularly evident in their eager response to the lively teaching they
receive in the oldest classes. Relationships between teachers and pupils are
excellent and the pupils are very well cared for. The policies and procedures that
safeguard their welfare, health and safety are thorough and robust and are
implemented consistently. This is an inclusive school that supports pupils with a
wide range of needs, including some with considerable learning difficulties, enabling
all to thrive and make progress in their learning. The inspiring and dynamic head
teacher, ably assisted by the exceptionally efficient and effective bursar, has created
a common sense of purpose among staff and achieved a great deal in a short space
of time. The school is well aware, however, that there is more to be done and that
the new initiatives need to be carefully evaluated, and if necessary adjusted, before
they are fully embedded. The school has responded well to the issues raised in the
last inspection report and has made clear improvements. All the regulations are met.

Quality of education provided

At the time of the inspection, the school was in the process of rapid development.
Three new and interlinked initiatives had only been implemented for about a month.
The first is to do with developing attitudes and behaviour, aiming to encourage
pupils’ independence and responsibility. The second is to do with teaching
approaches, giving more emphasis to individual work and encouraging pupils to be
the agents of their own learning. The third is the introduction of a new curriculum.

This curriculum has been carefully planned to form a coherent whole, even though it
draws on an eclectic range of source material. Based on a mixture of Islamic,
Montessori and National Curriculum principles, it uses British and American teaching
materials to underpin its programmes of study and to support the teachers. Although
the head teacher has only been in post for a few weeks, she was able to work part-
time in the school during the summer term, and had an opportunity over the long
summer break to work with the new team of teachers. This preparatory training has
played a critical role in the successful implementation of the new initiatives.
Teachers have had sufficient opportunities to discuss the ideas and principles behind
the new approaches; as a result, they have developed an understanding of them and
a shared commitment to implementing them. Nevertheless, there are differences in
the degrees of confidence they feel, and some teachers are still at a stage where
they are following the teaching materials too closely and are not yet confident
enough to adapt them when necessary to meet the needs of their pupils. This
occasionally results in inappropriate texts being used that fail to capture the attention
of the pupils.

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Pupils in the EYFS follow a broad programme that gives them experiences in all
areas of learning, with a good blend between child-initiated and adult-led activities.
The teachers and teaching assistants, most of whom have been in post for some
time, work effectively together. The teaching is good and the assessment of pupils’
progress is thorough and covers all areas of learning.

For primary aged pupils, the day normally starts with a halaqah (circle), which takes
the form of a brief whole school assembly in the masjid (prayer hall), that includes
duas (supplications), talks by the head teacher and the Islamic studies co-ordinator
and lively and enthusiastic singing. Later, back in their classes, there is a ‘morning
meeting’ in which the pupils sit in a circle on the story carpet. These short, regular
sessions give very good opportunities for personal, social and health education in an
Islamic context, often drawing on the messages of the whole school halaqah, as well
as developing the pupils’ speaking and listening skills.

All pupils, apart from the nursery, study the Qur’an for half an hour each day. The
time is well used and over the course of each week, pupils make good progress in
their understanding of the texts, their ability to read Arabic and their skills in
recitation. Although the classes are large, with two and sometimes three age groups
taught together, the specialist Islamic studies teacher gains and sustains the pupils’
concentration by teaching in a lively style with sufficient pace and variety. The other
adults present play a part in encouraging all pupils to be attentive, but beyond that,
too little use is made of them. There is a weekly lesson in Islamic studies, taught by
class teachers with guidance from the specialist teacher, following a good scheme of
work.

The curriculum is broad, but the balance between subjects is in need of review. The
school rightly gives considerable emphasis to the development of literacy and
numeracy skills, but the time allocation to literacy is so great that it limits the time
available for other subjects too much. In particular, the present timetable
arrangements, whereby science is taught for the first half of the year and humanities
will be taught in the second half of the year, may not allow the ambitious and wide-
ranging programmes of study to be covered in sufficient depth. Physical education
(PE) has recently been given more time and this helps pupils to understand and
value the place of exercise in keeping healthy. However, the programme of work in
PE is still constrained by the limitations of the building and the site.

In other subjects, the effectiveness in which the time is used varies too widely. In
information and communication technology (ICT), for example, very good use is
made of the one session a fortnight that half-classes have in the ICT room, where
the good subject knowledge of both the ICT specialist teacher and the teaching
assistant enables pupils to make rapid progress in their skills and understanding.
By contrast, the weekly creative sessions, in which art is taught by class teachers,
are sometimes not effective, because they do not give pupils enough opportunities to
make choices and so their artistic and creative skills are not being developed.

There is a programme of educational visits and trips, including a residential


experience in North Wales for pupils in Years 5 and 6. A madrassah (Qur’anic class)
meets in the school premises each day after school. Around 25 pupils attend, and a
high proportion of the rest of the pupils attend one of the many after-school

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madrassahs in the area. The school has offered other extra-curricular activities in
the past, for example embroidery, archery and a science club, but does not do so at
present. However, plans are well advanced to put on club activities during the
school day from time to time so that pupils can take part and still attend their after-
school madrassah.

There are good systems in place for identifying and supporting pupils with special
educational needs. The prospectus states that ‘children with special needs are
accommodated when possible’ and the school currently has some pupils with
considerable needs who are well supported. There are helpful links with the local
authority, whose specialist officers have visited to give advice and training.

While the majority of pupils speak other languages at home, there are only a few
who are at an early stage of learning English. Primary pupils are given individual or
small group support by a volunteer who visits once a week. The school now plans to
align her work more closely with the topics being studied, to make the best use of
her valuable contribution.

Pupils with particular gifts or talents are identified, and a wide range of talents are
recognised. The new head teacher, working part-time in the school last year, ran a
programme for these pupils. Currently, it is left to individual teachers to develop and
extend their pupils talents.

The school is revising and developing the homework policy and the current draft
shows a sensible balance between the practice of skills already learned in school
and the development of research skills to find out more about interesting topics.
When teachers give homework, the pupils are eager to do it, but some parents are
uncertain about whether their children are receiving the right amount.

Much of the teaching is good and some is outstanding, but there is too much
variation in the quality of teaching between classes. In the most successful lessons,
there is a good blend of whole class teaching, group work and individual learning.
The lively whole class sessions are brisk and pupils respond with interest and
enthusiasm. Their positive attitudes carry over into the group and individual work,
and they concentrate well on the tasks they are involved in. By contrast, in some
lessons the pace is too slow and pupils do not fully sustain their concentration during
group work and become rather restless. There are a good number of teaching
assistants. When they take small groups, they do so well, but too often in the
classroom not enough use is made of them.

The school has good systems of regular assessment to track the pupils’ progress,
particularly in literacy and numeracy. The teaching materials introduced as part of
the new curriculum have been carefully chosen to include assessment opportunities,
which will be important in evaluating the success of the initiatives. Up to 2008, the
pupils in Year 6 at the school took national tests. However, since then, the school
has used only teacher assessment, carefully undertaken and well informed by
guidance material, to judge the National Curriculum levels at which pupils are
working. As a result of the pupils’ very positive attitudes to learning, and of the
generally good teaching they receive, they are making good progress. Last year, the
teacher assessments judged that by the end of Year 6, pupils’ attainments in English

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were in line with the national average and were remarkably good in mathematics
where all pupils were judged to have reached Level 5.

Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils

The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is outstanding.


Spirituality is a real strength. The religious ethos gives pupils a clear sense of their
Islamic identity. They have a sound understanding of their faith and compete to
recite the Qur’an as beautifully as their teacher. Through the Qur’anic ayaat
(verses), pupils are taught to differentiate Arabic letters and sounds and also to
discern meanings and lessons from the Holy Scriptures. The recently rewritten
Islamic curriculum is broad and relevant, and includes Islamic history and citizenship.
Pupils are proud of their school; as one Year 6 pupil said, ‘This school is special
because we can practise our own religion and pray and talk about it freely’. Nearly
all parents agree that the school helps their child grow in faith. The pupils in the
EYFS gain good foundations in spirituality in ways that are appropriate to their age;
for example, when they learn about hajj (pilgrimage) they pack a suitcase with ihram
(white cloth for the ritual clothing) for their enactment of the journey.

The excellent way that virtues and morals are taught through assembly topics and
talks makes a strong contribution to the pupils’ moral development. Pupils are
encouraged to follow Divine guidance through a love of their faith rather than a fear
of punishment. Building on a school tradition in which teachers and pupils have
reviewed and discussed class rules each year, pupils in all year groups have drawn
up their own rules, helping them to understand the reasons for moral behaviour and
to differentiate more thoughtfully between right and wrong. The teachers are
encouraging, caring and patient providing the pupils with good role models. As a
result, their behaviour is outstanding and they look after each other well. As one of
them put it: ‘We are peaceful with each other’.

The experience of living in a caring community fosters the pupils’ social


development. They are increasingly independent and responsible and demonstrate
high levels of self-discipline, maturity and respectfulness. Islamic principles and
virtues are interlinked in a natural way with personal responsibility. Even the
youngest children know and celebrate their identity as Muslims. Pupils are eager to
learn and enjoy school very much. The Islamic studies curriculum encourages pupils
to make a positive contribution as global citizens. They are regularly involved in a
number of community projects to raise funds for the less fortunate and also for their
own school. They have an increasing understanding of public institutions through
national events and visitors to school.

Pupils have a strong sense of their own cultures and a growing respect and
understanding of other cultures and faiths. There is a link with a nearby Roman
Catholic voluntary aided primary school. The Islamic studies curriculum includes
units on Judaism and Christianity that increase knowledge and encourage respect
for these religions. When Hindu and Sikh students on placement have visited the
school they have been welcomed and encouraged to share their religious heritage.

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Welfare, health and safety of pupils

Pupils are very well cared for by the committed staff who conscientiously safeguard
their welfare, health and safety in school and on educational visits. Pupils are
supervised at all times and regular risk assessments are carried out on activities and
equipment throughout the school. Nearly all parents agree that their children are
safe and well cared for in school. Robust policies and procedures, which reflect
Islamic values, are well established and comply fully with national requirements and
guidance. Policies are regularly reviewed. The child protection officer has received
training from the Local Safeguarding Children Board and she ensures that all staff
have up-to-date training in safeguarding. There are a good number of first aiders
and there are thorough procedures for dealing with and recording accidents and for
making all staff aware of pupils with medical conditions.

The school’s well-considered anti-bullying policy is effectively implemented. It


states, ‘We are a telling school - anyone who knows that bullying is happening is
expected to tell the staff.’ Incidents of bullying are extremely rare: as one Year 6
pupil said, ‘I’ve never come across an incident where there is bullying in the six years
I have been here - except once or twice’.

The bursar works effectively to ensure that fire equipment, emergency lighting and
other appliances are routinely serviced and that records are kept. Fire drills are
conducted and recorded each term.

Pupils are encouraged to live healthy life styles and are regularly reminded of the
need to keep themselves and fellow pupils safe through their actions. Beginning in
the EYFS, pupils develop a good understanding of how to be healthy and how to
stay safe.

In line with its inclusive nature, the school takes seriously its duties under the
Equality Act 2010 and has produced a thoughtful and well-considered plan to
increase accessibility for disabled people. The commitment to inclusion is well
illustrated by the adjustments to the premises that were made in order to meet the
needs of a visually impaired pupil, who has now left the school.

Suitability of staff, supply staff, and proprietors

The school has very effective and comprehensive recruitment procedures that
ensure that all the required checks on staff and proprietors are made and recorded
appropriately. The procedures are overseen carefully by the bursar, who is well
informed about recent changes in legislation.

Premises and accommodation

The partly-nineteenth century school building (with 1930s, post-war and 60s
extensions) has been pleasantly refurbished and is well maintained with two
caretakers and good systems for regular maintenance work to take place. The
recent decorations over the summer have enabled the pupils to enjoy a colourful,
pleasant and safe environment. There is a spacious, warm masjid that is also well
used and has ICT facilities for Qur’an lessons. The recent investment in a fully

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networked ICT room has enhanced learning and motivation and demonstrates the
school’s effective response to a recommendation in the last inspection report, that
ICT should be used more widely.

The school makes good use of the outside play area. The arrangements for morning
breaks and lunch-time play ensure that it is sufficient in size for the number of pupils
using it at any one time. There are attractive grids and patterns painted on the
surface and pupils are able to use a range of play equipment. The pupils in the
EYFS have their own outside play area, with direct access to it from both the Nursery
and Reception classrooms. While it is rather small, it is well used to provide a good
range of appropriate activities.

The school makes some use of a local church hall and an adjacent ball court for
gymnastics and games but PE facilities on site are limited to the playground, with the
masjid being used in bad weather. There is an allotment nearby which is used by the
pupils to grow vegetables in the spring and summer; the allotment is also used as an
outdoor resource in a range of lessons.

Provision of information

The school’s newly revamped website clearly communicates its philosophy for
education and its aims. It is comprehensive and easily accessible by both current
and prospective parents. The school operates in an open and honest fashion and
quickly responds to parental concerns. There is an informative weekly newsletter. It
tells parents about forthcoming events and gives some information about recent
changes. However, several parents who came to the parental meeting held at the
start of the inspection said that they would have liked more information at an earlier
stage about the new developments.

Parents are told about their children’s progress at parents’ meetings that are held
twice a year and through the helpful annual reports. The revised prospectus gives
clear information and, together with the website, meets all requirements.

Manner in which complaints are to be handled

The detailed complaints procedure meets all the regulations by making provision for
informal and formal complaints to be appropriately handled within set time scales.
There have been no formal complaints from parents during the last twelve months.

Effectiveness of the Early Years Foundation Stage

The EYFS is very effective. The 68 pupils are given a good beginning to their school
life. The 29 pupils in the Reception class are full-time, while nearly all of the 39
pupils in the Nursery attend part-time. From an early age the Islamic values are
fostered and interwoven into the curriculum, providing a firm spiritual foundation on
which to build. The ethos of the school emphasises the unique nature of each pupil
and values and nurtures their different gifts.

The curriculum is well planned to cover the six areas of learning for the EYFS. The
school has addressed the issue of the physical development of pupils raised in the

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last Ofsted report by including weekly PE lessons as well as visits to a nearby soft
play area. The timetable reflects a well-balanced programme including some
teacher-led sessions interspersed with opportunities for pupils to select their own
activities helping them to become independent learners. The pupils particularly
enjoy singing songs about the days of the week, counting rhymes and nasheeds
(Islamic songs) as well as songs linked to each topic. Educational visits take place
throughout the year and members of the local community, for example police officers
and doctors, come to school to increase pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the
world.

Daily lunch-time meetings ensure that staff observations are shared and recorded,
together with photographs and samples of the pupils’ work, to create a ‘Learning
Journey’ for each pupil. The pupils’ progress towards their early learning goals is
carefully tracked and the information from the tracking is used to set individual
targets. It is also used to plan activities which fully take account of the needs of
individual pupils, including the pupil with a statement of educational need and those
who are at an early stage of learning English. The detailed information gathered in
this way enables the EYFS profiles to be filled in accurately and thoughtfully.

The pupils have been carefully inducted into routines in the first weeks of the new
school year and they have been helped to behave appropriately and show
consideration for others. As a result, the behaviour of the pupils is excellent and
there is an atmosphere of purposeful learning. Appropriate rewards such as stickers
and ‘star of the week’ as well as sanctions, including a ‘thinking chair’, are used
effectively.

Health and safety policies and procedures are successfully implemented to provide a
safe and secure environment. Several members of staff have up-to-date paediatric
first aid certificates and all have undergone safeguarding training. Each day, risk
assessments are carried out on all apparatus and planned activities. The school’s
healthy eating policy is consistently implemented. Full-time pupils are encouraged to
bring healthy packed lunches and all the pupils have daily milk and fruit snacks.

The leadership and management are good; the qualified, dedicated team work well
together. The implementation of the EYFS has been well managed and all
requirements are met. The setting is well organised and the changeover from the
morning supervisor to the afternoon supervisor in the Nursery is seamless. The staff
have benefitted from local authority support and training, and they are continuing to
improve their effectiveness using local and national guidance material. All members
of staff have level 3 qualifications; some are seeking to enhance their qualifications
further. Other improvements to the provision are planned, for example to cover part
of the outside area so that the well-planned outdoor activities can continue in
inclement weather.

Compliance with the regulations

The school meets all of the regulations for registration. The school also meets the
requirements of the Equality Act 2010.

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Meeting the expectations of AMSUK

The school’s religious ethos continues to meet the expectations of AMSUK.

What the school could do to improve further

As part of future development the school might wish to consider:

• evaluating carefully the new initiatives concerned with curriculum, teaching


approaches and behaviour, so that any necessary adjustments can be made

• achieving greater consistency in the quality of teaching between classes

• giving more emphasis to the development of artistic and creative skills

• developing the role of teaching assistants, making fuller use of this valuable
resource.

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