An Ofsted team in March made its first routine inspection since the before the start of the Covid pandemic, while a Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS) took place in April.
Both rated as ‘good’ the tiny Exford school, which has 33 pupils aged two to nine years and which is part of the Moorland Federation.
Lead Ofsted inspector James Oldham said pupils were ‘kind and understanding of each other’ and had positive attitudes to learning.
Mr Oldham said: “Leaders have high expectations of pupils’ behaviour, and pupils live up to these. As a result, the school has a calm and purposeful atmosphere.”
He said an ‘ambitious curriculum’ had been designed for the youngsters and in most subjects school leaders had thought intelligently about the knowledge and skills which pupils needed to succeed in life.
Pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND) had their needs met well, and educational visits helped youngsters to follow the curriculum, such as developing historical understanding from a trip to a local castle, and when visitors from a zoo took in animals for the children to meet first-hand, which helped with science learning.
Mr Oldham said a range of opportunities helped pupils to develop their talents and interests, such as taking part in an opera and a gymnastics competition.
He said school leaders provided effective training for staff, who spoke positively about how they managed their workload and valued their support for personal well-being and were proud to work there.
The inspectors carried out ‘deep dives’ in early reading, mathematics, and history teaching and discussed the curriculum with subject leaders, and spoke with teachers and pupils and looked at samples of the children’s work.
SIAMS inspector David Hatrey said the school made an impressive contribution to the community with its nurture for families and concern for their wellbeing.
He said leaders were ‘passionate and dedicated’ to the work of the church school and were relentless in identifying best practice, while the Moorland Federation enriched provision through growing future leaders.
Mr Hatrey said there was an ‘exemplary’ partnership with the Church which enriched pastoral support, while ‘Church Guardians’ increased the impact of collective worship and religious education.
The school’s vision drove leaders to create ‘a unique curriculum reflecting the locality and deepening pupils’ understanding of caring for God’s world’.
Relationships with families was a particular strength, where the school was ‘a beacon of hope’, and staff went beyond the expectations of the community to nurture all.
Mr Hatrey said:
“Leaders make bold decisions to create a unique curriculum which prepares learners to be future citizens".
“A partnership with the Exmoor National Park creates rich experiences, exploring the diversity of the locality".
“Weekly investigations deepen pupils’ understanding of the wonder of God’s creation. This raises their responsibility for its care.”
Exford headteacher Nicky Stenner said: “We are thrilled with the outcomes of both our SIAMS and OFSTED inspections.
“The staff, children, and whole community really came together to show our school in its very best light.
“We are extremely proud of the curriculum opportunities we provide our children - ‘Generation Exmoor’ and ‘Farm School’ being highlights which all children benefit from.
“Our strong partnership with the whole Moorland Federation was recognised, too.”
Executive headteacher Naomi Philp, of the Moorland Federation, said:
“I genuinely could not be prouder.
“Exford School has had two inspections - Ofsted and SIAMs - really quite close together and on both occasions been praised for all their wonderful work.
“A credit to all the children, staff, and families of the school and the wider federation family as a whole.
“The inclusive approach and the close links with our church, among other positives, are aspects we are thrilled to have seen noted so clearly.
“Another moment to celebrate in Moorland Federation.”