Depth Before Breadth
Our first priority at Ark Academy is to build a foundation in literacy and numeracy, as this provides a gateway to all other learning. In Reception and Year 1, our pupils partake in two literacy lessons (phonics and English) and two mathematics lessons per day, as well as having regular opportunities to read to an adult on a one-to-one basis and in groups. From Year 2 onwards, all children have two literacy lessons (English grammar and spelling, and guided reading) and two mathematics lessons per day. Thanks to this structure, all of our pupils learn to read, write, and work with numbers confidently and to a high standard. Where pupils need extra support, it is provided to ensure that every child reaches and exceeds nationally expected standards.
Our English teaching focuses on speaking and listening, reading, and writing using synthetic phonics and other reading strategies. We use the Read Write Inc. reading programme which is based on "synthetic phonics." In this programme, children learn what combinations of letters make all the different sounds in English and to blend these to make words and how to decode words when they see these combinations. You can use this link to more details of how the scheme works and material to use helping your child at home.
Mathematics and Citizenship
All ARK schools specialise in mathematics and we invest in attracting and training the best mathematics teachers. Further to the two maths lessons per day, we also hold maths weeks throughout the year, during which pupils participate in workshops, investigations, and problem solving activities. We have been the pioneers behind developing the Mathematics Mastery programme, which is now distributed nationwide.
Our second specialism, Citizenship, is at the core of the Ark Academy community. In the primary schools, pupil voice is activated through the school council and the opportunity for pupils to work as playground and Eco buddies to ensure a safe, happy, and clean school environment.
As part of our citizenship specialism, we are also the founding members of North London Citizens. This initiative addresses the challenges facing London’s schools, making sure teachers, parents, and children work collaboratively for the common good. This project has three main purposes. Firstly, it aims to transform the culture of schools by building and developing trust between all adults and children in the school. Secondly, it aims to engage with issues that affect what goes on in the classroom (e.g. living conditions, environmental conditions, and safety). Thirdly, more generally and in order to make sure that its first two goals are reached effectively, it aims to train school members to take action together for change.
In collaboration with professional organisers, North London Citizens develops leadership skills through hands-on experience taking action for change and through formal training of parents, teachers, and children. Upon identifying an issue requiring change, we work together to determine what person or entity can help solve the issue and how we can enter into a constructive relationship with them. Those involved in this exciting initiative develop confidence, public speaking skills, and the ability to persuade and develop arguments in a coherent and inclusive fashion.
The National Curriculum
The National Curriculum Programmes of Study are divided into Key Stages:
1. The Foundation Stage
The Foundation Stage makes a crucial contribution to children’s early development and learning.
We provide children with a rich variety of teaching and learning experiences that are appropriate to their needs. The Foundation Stage is about developing key learning skills such as listening, speaking, concentrating, persistence, and learning to work and cooperate with others.
The seven areas of learning that make up the Foundation Stage curriculum are:
• Communication and language
• Physical development
• Personal, social, and emotional development
• Understanding the world
• Expressive arts and design
Children are also encouraged to develop their characteristics and styles of learning under the following headings:
• Playing and exploring
• Active learning
• Creating and thinking critically
The outdoor environment is also a very special part of the Foundation Stage curriculum. As such, it is carefully planned for and available each day. The Nursery and Reception classes have their own specially equipped outdoor area.
The teaching to achieve these early learning goals is through firsthand experience and structured play, and the areas of experience are linked to the National Curriculum. The teacher and teaching assistants keep records on children’s experiences and attainments. Assessments of development and learning needs are ongoing throughout the school year.
During the first half of the autumn term, the teacher carries out a baseline assessment for every child. This establishes where they are in aspects of their learning and development and helps with future planning. The results of this early assessment are shared with parents at the parent evening in the autumn term. By the end of the year, the teacher will have built up an accurate profile of each child’s development.
We encourage reading, communication, and mathematical skills from the very beginning. Reading is taught through a structured phonics scheme supplemented with a wide range of other books. Books are organised in a structured, graded way to allow children many opportunities for consolidation of key vocabulary. We encourage parents to work with their child at home by hearing them read on a daily basis.
We are always pleased to discuss ways in which parents can help their child at each stage of their reading development.
2. Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7 years) and Key Stage 2 (ages 8-11 years)
The core curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2 comprises:
• Information Communication Technology (ICT)
Children also study the subjects below as part of the National Curriculum. These are called foundation subjects:
• Art and Design
• Design Technology (DT)
• Physical Education (PE) – 2 hours a week
• Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE)
• Religious Education (RE)
• Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) – French and Spanish, as well as samplings of other languages including Mandarin
• Enterprise – projects that teach financial skills and business acumen
All pupils take part in weekly music lessons that allow children to recognise the beat and tempo and begin to master the ability to perform by ear and from simple notations. Pupils in reception follow a specialised music curriculum design by Ark music specialists designed specifically to teach these elements of music.
Children in KS1 and 2 participate in 30-minute djembe drumming lessons every week, learning about the tone of the instrument and the beat in music. This is complemented with work children do with Brent music specialists for a further 30 minutes a week. All children in Year 1 learn to play the violin. Children who show particular talent are offered small-group violin lessons on a weekly basis throughout their school career. From Year 2 onwards, all children learn to play the recorder. This allows children to develop a sense of self expression and a growing self confidence in performance.
Our pupils take part in daily physical activities in addition to their two weekly PE lessons. As well as ensuring participation for all, we focus on team and individual performance and competition as part of our commitment to high expectations. We make good use of our brand new sports hall, as well as external local facilities. All children from Year 1 onwards take part in swimming lessons for a minimum of 6 weeks a year in order to develop this essential life skill.
Modern Foreign Languages
We believe that learning a foreign language is an important part of our children’s academic and social development. As such, all children participate in MFL lessons, which become formal French/Spanish lessons from Year 2 onwards. From Year 3 onwards, these lessons are statutory and they are led by expert MFL teachers from the Secondary School to ensure excellence in delivery.
Personal, Social, and Health Education
As part of PSHE, children work closely with their class teachers to be able to articulate their feelings and the causes for the emotions they feel, and where necessary identifying coping strategies for certain feelings. They learn to set themselves simple goals and to make good choices about their health and well-being. They work to identify and respect differences and similarities between people, and explain different ways that family and friends should care for one another. In KS2, this includes teaching about drugs and human reproduction.
Closely linked with PSHE, but more focused on developing a sense of financial capability, Enterprise education develops business acumen from a young age as well as leadership and team work skills. Enterprise helps children develop a ‘can do attitude’ and gives them opportunities to be creative and innovative.
Non-denominational Religious Education is provided for all children as part of the curriculum and is in accordance with the local agreed Religious Education syllabus. Assembly is an important part of the school day when we meet together as a community. It is a time when we place emphasis on the development of values and attitudes towards each other and the world around us. Assemblies are non-denominational and due consideration is given to the multicultural society in which we live.
Click the link to see our curriculum map for this academic year.