The DNA of Ark Academy
Is based on the six pillars of Ark Schools and developed into our own unique ‘feel’ generated by a genuine buy in for our core values. Our values are also underpinned by our habits and ‘the way we do things around here’. We believe that in Ark Academy the following principles are tangible and central to achieving our mission from Reception through to Year 13.
Students will develop the characteristics that support their academic achievement and will become thoughtful citizens who make good choices in their lives. We set very high expectations for all our pupils, whatever their starting point. We believe every child can realise their potential with the right teaching and support. Progress, from every starting point matters to us. We want every child at Ark Academy to do well enough by the age of 18 to go to university or pursue a career of their choice. We ensure that our pupils understand the wide variety of opportunities and pathways that are available to them.
We hold high expectations for all our pupils. Nothing is as important as the work we do to impact on the learning and lives of our students. Pupils understand the opportunities Ark Academy offers them and that we will do whatever it takes to help students achieve their goals. High expectations and the drive for strong outcomes permeate the school. Pupils and teachers understand that qualifications are the key and we are unapologetic in our pursuit of this. Our teachers are relentless in their efforts and know that co-planning, coaching and forensic assessment are key to the success of our students. We take every opportunity through our extended curriculum and community engagement to ensure that our students grow and develop as well rounded, passionate and curious citizens. We know that children need to think deeply and more broadly about the world around them. We commit to ensuring every child enjoys a range of experiences that develops their social capital and develop their knowledge and their development as citizens in a democratic society. We ensure this through a variety of opportunities and programmes including our strong careers and enrichment programmes. Additionally we develop the learning habits that underpin academic success. Our students learn to think rigorously and creatively, read analytically, organise themselves, manage extended projects, debate and present themselves with confidence.
Teaching and learning is the main thing. The promotion of high quality learning is at the heart of all our endeavours. We aim to inspire a future of passionate historians, mathematicians, scientists by delivering challenging and engaging lessons. Our teachers have excellent subject knowledge and are passionate about challenging each child to engage, stretch themselves and develop a love of learning. We use data intelligently to support our planning and ensure teaching is meeting the needs of students and improving outcomes.
Excellent teaching is underpinned by a clear view of pedagogy which promotes expert teaching. Through our lessons we build student understanding and work to ensure that knowledge is committed to the long term memory. Our teachers have a clear understanding of how the learning fits into the broader curriculum. We achieve this through curriculum planning which focuses on progression through the age-related curriculum. The concepts, knowledge and skills necessary to be successful are embedded at each stage so that students can successively access the curriculum as it becomes progressively more challenging.
We ensure consistency of provision and access to learning through our whole school commitment to co-planning. All lessons within a topic are delivered across the whole cohort. All teachers then adapt their plans to meet the learning needs of the class they are teaching but the key learning remains the same. We deliver our medium term plans through Fertile Questions. These knit together a sequence of lessons. The questions are thought provoking, challenging and holistic. We know this approach engages pupils and helps them see the links between concepts and knowledge.
Exemplary Behaviour and strong ethos based on Civitas
There is a compelling and inclusive moral purpose which drives the school forward and is represented by and reflected throughout the school by our motto and core value ‘Civitas’. All members of our community recognise the meaning and spirit of Civitas and that we strive to reflect it in our daily lives. We want all our pupils to enjoy school and develop enthusiasm for learning alongside an understanding of their future role in society. Effective management and clear consistent routines ensure that we maximise the time for learning and pupils are taught to be self-disciplined and self-regulating.
Ark Academy is a purposeful place of learning characterised by a respectful, orderly environment where teachers can focus on teaching and students on learning. We support one another and our students by the use of consistent routines. We are compassionately ruthless in ensuring that all students know and understand what is expected of them. Simply consistency is king. We know that routines are a team game and we share and implement practices and routines across the school, working as a team to give our students a consistent experience and create an excellent climate for learning. As a result, our students will know that routines help create an excellent school.
All our students and staff know that Civitas is about being a better human being and developing young community leaders with a passion for social action. We expect our students to develop as role models for those who follow them. We support civitas in a variety of ways but significantly through our relationships. Our reward system is based on the four core values of:
civitas, excellence, persistence and participation.
These permeate our school life and support our vibrant House System which supports team spirit, relationships and a positive school culture.
Depth for breadth
We prioritise depth for breadth. All pupils will secure firm foundations in English and mathematics and this underpins excellence in the other subjects. Our curriculum is rigorous and knowledge based which is reinforced by regular assessments that cumulatively build students’ knowledge.
We offer a broad range of subjects from Early Years through to KS1, 2 and 3. At KS4 we offer academic pathways alongside a range of practical and creative subjects. In KS5 we offer academic pathways including a strength in enabling subjects at ‘A’ level as well as rigorous and challenging vocational pathways. All pathways and progression through the academy are based on high quality careers and pathway support through our whole school Ambitions Programme.
Our curriculum is planned backwards in each subject with big ideas (fertile questions) underpinning each area of academic study and building year on year ensuring progressively harder concepts are mastered. More time for English and maths is identified where it is most needed to help pupils catch up.
Our assessments, three times a year, cumulatively test students learning over the year. Revision is built into the curriculum to support our students’ progressive understanding of how to learn independently. We place great emphasis on our review week which takes place after each formal assessment. This enables us to re-teach key aspects and students to fix areas of misconception. This is a key component of our feedback strategy. Alongside high stakes testing, all departments implement a variety of formative assessments and quizzes to test and reinforce their learning and feedback into teaching.
Knowing Every Child
Ark Academy values the diversity and inclusivity of our school. We know it is important that every pupil knows they are well known by their teachers, so that every individual can flourish. In Ark Academy we explicitly develop through our core values and our unifying motto, Civitas, the character and habits which support pupils’ academic and personal development. Our pastoral system ensures that every child has an adult who will listen to them. Positive relationships between students and adults reinforce a culture where children are safe and maintain excellent behaviour and commitment to learning.
Our pastoral teams and experienced support staff ensure that our pupils are known, understood and cared for. Our pastoral teams meet our parents three times a year and ensure they are aware of the progress and development of their child giving them the holistic view of their child’s school life. We teach character education through our tutor and PSHE programme, reinforced by our assemblies. We support Civitas by the way we greet each other, talk to each other and take on responsibilities. Our positive approach in Ark Academy is supported by our rewards system based on our four core values, our tutor system and the house system.
Our teachers understand the most impactful intervention happens in the classroom knowing the class in front of you and ensuring their need is being met is our key commitment.
Always Learning in Ark Academy
We put professional development at the heart of what we do in Ark Academy. We are always learning. We are committed to identifying talent and nurturing individuals to create a community of exceptional teachers, highly skilled support staff, thoughtful managers and strategic leaders.
Excellent teaching is underpinned by high quality professional development which supports teacher progression. We are a community of learners. It is in our DNA to talk, observe, plan and reflect together.
Teaching is a craft we can always improve. We invest heavily in our provision of professional development. We know that this is the key to the development of our students and to us as educators. We also recognise that all teachers need their subject knowledge refreshing and developing.
We develop our knowledge and skills in Ark Academy in a variety of ways that link together to provide a wide range of opportunities to learn both on the job and from experts. Our teaching practice is developed through weekly mentoring, the weekly training programme, weekly co-planning meetings, through observation and feedback and, where possible, through co-teaching working alongside more experienced professionals.
Through our talk, training and observation we have a shared understanding and a common language that ensures the consistency of our agreed approach. We know the key conditions needed to create this community of learners are trust, risk-taking, collaboration, co-construction, common goals and shared values. All of these underpin our DNA.
Ark Academy learns it way forward, building in time for collective enquiry, reviewing evidence and continually striving for improvement. We evaluate our learning and support our staff to engage in evaluative, data-driven and strategic thinking related to their role. We also evaluate our learning at key assessment points, documented in The Evaluation of Teaching and Learning (ETAL). This enables individual teachers, subjects/key stages and senior leaders to learn through analysis. We are committed to research and reviewing educational thinking as a learning community sharing articles and best practice through our weekly bulletin and blogs. We believe Ark Academy and Ark Schools provides an excellent talent pipeline. As staff prepare to take on or commence new leadership positions within Ark we support them through ongoing training, coaching others, delivering training and leading co-planning.
As a member of both our region and Ark Schools we have regular opportunities to share practice and train together, attend joint monitoring visits or collaborate within our subject area. We are also a member of The Prince’s Teaching Institute which supports the development of subject knowledge.