CHILDREN left their small village primary school for the Christmas break on a high note yesterday.

An end-of-term carol service rounded off a successful year at Esh Church of England School, in County Durham.

In keeping with the school motto, everyone was smiling as they made their way home for the last time this term, with the high praises of Government Ofsted inspectors still fresh in the memory.

The school underwent a recent inspection and could not have fared better, with inspectors praising "the high quality of work and the excellent progress being made throughout the school".

In her inspection report, lead inspector Maggie Shepherd said: "This is an outstanding school. Achievement is outstanding.

"By the time children leave the school, their standards are significantly higher than average."

She described the 76-pupil school as, "like one big happy family", with excellent behaviour in lessons, around the school and playground.

Ms Shepherd sang the praises of both pupils and staff, whose "vision and drive" to go on improving the work of the school are noted.

Head teacher Mike Urwin said: "All schools work hard, but it's good to get a real genuine pat on the back for all your efforts. It's nice for everyone, the children, staff, parents and governors.

"Because of the small size of the school, we have three classes, of mixed age and mixed stages.

"But we have four teaching staff who are dedicated to the cause. We prefer to put our money into teaching rather than flooding the place with resources."

Although situated in the hamlet of Esh, the school attracts pupils from neighbouring villages and rural communities in surrounding Langley Park, Esh Winning, Quebec and Cornsay.