The overarching aim of Ark Academy is to provide all our students with the best possible opportunities to lead a successful, fulfilled life. We are a values-based school which aims to build a community of civic pride and social justice. We want all our young people to be able to access higher education or a career of their choice, and to contribute fully to our democratic society. Our school is built on six pillars of Ark Schools, which are present in all aspects of our practice, setting our vision and driving day to day decision making. The six pillars are explored in the DNA of Ark Academy.
1. Intent: why do we teach what we teach?
Our curriculum is designed to offer all of our pupils, from the highest attaining, to those who require special consideration, every opportunity to fully develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of a broad and varied curriculum through balanced and equitable exposure, ensuring they are developed into well-rounded, articulate and educated young citizens of the world ready to take on the next stage of their education at university, suitable apprenticeships or to go directly into the world of work at 18.
Careful thought is put into our curriculum design with subject experts leading and developing the curriculum in their area of expertise. We work with colleagues in the Ark network to ensure the curriculum is developed into a comprehensive and rigorous intellectual journey that allows pupils to achieve outstanding results and make exceptional progress. This is achieved through engaging and thought-provoking provision that aims inspire a passion for the subject and a love of learning.
The guiding principles that drive our curriculum design are as wide and varied as they are important:
- Our curriculum is underpinned by the core belief that knowledge is power. A driving factor of our curriculum is the importance of ensuring that our pupils become both culturally literate and that they are exposed to and can remember a breadth and depth of knowledge through subjects that enable them to take a full and meaningful part in society. This is as important as the outcomes of their exams. Powerful knowledge allows our pupils to create change, which is expressed at Ark Academy in the permeating ethos of Civitas.We aim to give our pupils the ability to bring about positive change by building knowledge that allows them to articulate and understand complex social issues and to engage with challenging debates about the barriers to change.Our knowledge rich curriculum allows all of our pupils to engage with this deep and powerful knowledge across all subjects and disciplines and all key stages.
- Our curriculum is academically ambitious: engaging and rigorous. We aim to create moments of awe and wonder that emerge from the clarity of understanding: the why as opposed to just the how. Why is it important that our Year 7 can understand and articulate the events that led to the creation of the Magna Carta? Why is it important to understand the chemical significance of buffer solutions to explain the role of the oceans in climate change for Year 12? Such questions underpin the design of our curriculum offer for all pupils.
- Our curriculum is ever evolving. We co-plan and review our plans. Collaborative curriculum planning and reviewing these plans is built into our staff timetables and permeates our department cultures. Our schemes of work have been designed and refined over ten years by skilled subject practitioners and are based on strong subject knowledge. Our twice-weekly co-planning meetings ensure that medium term plans are translated into well-structured and carefully sequenced lessons. This ensures that key knowledge and key misconceptions are pinpointed and addressed deliberately; that teachers can intellectually prepare for their specific classes and students; and that core learning is embedded consistently, ensuring that all students can access an intellectually ambitious curriculum.The use of Fertile Questions designed by subject experts to hinge learning in real and meaningful situations engages students through big-picture thinking and well-pitched challenge. These lesson sequences, carefully blend substantive and disciplinary knowledge allows us to create a curriculum that explains the why as well as the what.
- We recognise the importance of reading and the place of high quality texts at the core of our curriculum implementation. We place a high emphasis on advancing our pupils’ reading age where needed, maintaining progression of literacy levels and pushing our pupils to read academically challenging texts that advance their confidence and knowledge.
- The deliberate design and sequence of the curriculum allows our pupils to commit knowledge to long-term memory through a curriculum that builds on prior knowledge and revisits at levels of greater complexity. Through co-planning and review, our teachers engage in a constant dialogue about sequencing and implementation, particularly where review has exposed knowledge gaps or necessary adaptations due to lost learning time.
2. Curriculum Implementation: What does an Ark Academy lesson look like?
Curriculum Implementation at Ark Academy is delivered through high quality middle leadership, supported by rigorous senior line management.
In additions to those strategies outlined in our Curriculum Intentions (subject and curriculum expertise, and a well sequenced curriculum), our leadership (senior and middle) use a number of high level strategies to implement the curriculum including –
- Excellent resources and materials for each scheme of work and lessons. These are honed through co-planning and then adapted as per the needs of the class. A number of departments use documents such as Knowledge Organisers, and base texts, as foundational for the pupils’ knowledge and skills acquisition in each scheme of work.
- Well designed formative and summative assessment, used thoroughly to inform responsive teaching. Most departments have established diagnostic testing as core to their teaching, and use these tests to inform ongoing teaching. Teachers follow department level Marking and Feedback Policies which outline the purpose, frequency and nature of ongoing marking and feedback. Teachers reflect on summative assessments through Pupil Outcome Reflections, termly conversations with colleagues to identify pupils’ misconceptions and next steps. Teachers follow up summative assessments with a Review Week of lessons. The Review Week enables teachers to address misconceptions apparent in summative assessments, and strengthen pupils’ knowledge and skills in light of assessments.
- Effective classroom practice in all lessons, summarised in our Everyday Excellence approach to teaching and learning, summarised below. This pedagogical approach follows a Plan, Mark, Teach structure.
- High quality mentoring and training for all teachers, in particular Early Careers Teachers (ECTs) in the first three years of their careers. Every trainee has their own mentor and a robust training programme. Ark Teacher Trainees (ATTs) and ECTs follow an Ark Central led training programme which is rigorous and highly supportive. All ATT and ECT mentors receive rigorous mentoring training provided by the Academy and the Ark Central ECT programme, using established mentoring practice, guided by the effective and well researched pedagogical handbook Getting Better Faster (Santoyo, 2016). ECT+1 year teachers (ECT+1s) also have their own mentor and in-house training programme which develops ECT+1s’ classroom leadership, and supports these teachers to make the next steps in their careers.
What does an Ark Academy lesson look like?
First and foremost, an Ark Academy lesson is shaped by the curriculum and subject expertise of the teacher, and the department. Our lesson design is flexible and departments are encouraged to develop the most effective ways to teach their subjects and implement their curriculum intentions.
There are, however, a number of common pedagogical features to our lessons, informed by the best research into what works. Lessons begin with a Do Now, typically a tool for consolidating memory of knowledge, and usually with brief self assessment. Teacher exposition then outlines the new learning, and how it fits into the curriculum (they why), this exposition is chunked with opportunities for questioning and checking pupils’ understanding – this section of the lesson is known as the “activation phrase”. This phrase is typically supported by high quality modelling of what is expected of the pupils. Lessons then include independent practice (the “demonstration phrase”), with a suitable level of challenge for the pupils, and teachers circulating the classroom, intentionally monitoring, for pupils’ understanding and providing targeted support. Pupils are supported according to the needs of the moment, as well as according to teacher knowledge of every child, which is informed by the use of a data rich seating plan, and the teacher’s most recent feedback and marking of the pupils’ work.
Lessons are accessible to all pupils, including those with SEND, who teachers plan to support. Teaching is built on a foundation of intellectual preparation – preparation both of the content and how best to teach it to the particular class. Lessons include opportunities for reading and oracy, which we recognise as vital to our pupils’ progress in every sense, and are characterised by a strong climate for learning, in which every child is supported to learn and low level disruption is eliminated. Pupils’ knowledge and understanding, and strong independent learning habits, are consolidated through a whole school, systematic approach to homework, in which quality and submission of homework is monitored by departmental and pastoral teams, and support provided for pupils where needed through interventions such as Homework Club.
3. Curriculum Provision
Depth for breadth confirms our emphasis on firm foundations in English, mathematics and science which are supported by a broad range of subjects throughout KS3, largely matching the NC, and a balanced option process in KS4. This broad and balanced curriculum builds the disciplinary foundations to allow our students to access pathways at later stages of their education and gives real choice when it comes to KS 5 choices and progression to university.
With 30 periods per week of formal classes (55 minutes per lesson) we are able to provide every student with a rich and varied curriculum, supplemented by an extended curriculum including both enrichment sessions and study support. In Year 7 we provide 7 periods per week of English, and 6 in Year 8 and 9, to support the development of literacy. This builds on the work of primary schools in grammar and vocabulary development and accuracy of writing, skills that we know we need to spiral through the curriculum. We know the increasing complexity of language in the more rigorous GCSEs causes access problems for students with low literacy levels.
In addition to this, we spend considerable curriculum time through all key stages 3-5, instilling our community values and habits to support our students academic and personal development. All students have 25 minutes of tutor time, Monday - Thursday and a weekly PSHE/RSE lesson (55 minutes). PSHE and tutor time supports a wide range of issues from relationships, study skills to careers and citizenship.
In Key Stage 3, in addition to a strong focus on English, mathematics and science, our students also experience a range of practical and expressive subjects including design technology, PE, RE, art, music and drama every week. All students study either French or Spanish in KS3 and we strongly encourage students to continue with this language through to GCSE. Digital and computing skills are built in across our subject offer and through tutor/PSHE time and specially designed drop down days. This balanced diet ensures they develop into rounded individuals, with a range of strengths and talents. Most importantly, the key stage 3 curriculum contains real challenge and rigour and builds the academic foundations that our students will need to go on to success at GCSE, A-Level and University.
In Key Stage 4, students are able to choose three optional subjects in addition to the core programme. The vocabulary of each subject, the difficulty of the concepts, the expectations in terms of homework and revision, is unapologetically demanding. Core subjects - English, maths science, RE, PE and PSHE - are compulsory and studied by all students. Students may also study a different number of core subjects depending on their pathway e.g. triple science. This is largely based on their Key Stage 3 results but is also affected by their progress through year 10.
Three optional GCSE subjects are chosen by students, including a range of humanities, languages, creative and practical subjects. All students are very well informed about the benefits of an academic pathway such as the EBacc, with all students taking either history or geography. Our pupils are very strongly encouraged to take a modern language and a heritage language, where applicable, with a small additional offer provided for those that feel they cannot access the course. Currently 80% of Year 10 and 11 study either Spanish or French.
All students have a wider choice in the third option block of the additional humanities/practical/creative subjects as well as business studies.
All of the options subjects offered at Ark Academy meet the qualification requirements for best 8 subjects.
Enrichment/Study Support/Homework Club
In KS3 and 4 we offer a broad and varied optional enrichment programme from 3.45pm until 4.45pm. The programme provides students the opportunity to develop passions that go beyond the academic classroom. Students can enjoy and explore activities from sports, drama and art through to coding, science and robotics. Enrichment sessions run for a term at a time. A new range of activities is offered each term [some activities will continue beyond one term].
As part of our enrichment offer, our partnership with North London Citizens offers students the opportunity to develop key leadership skills and engage with local and national social action campaigns. Students in all year groups have the opportunity to be part of this.
At Key Stage 4 students have the opportunity to follow the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh Award, providing them with the chance to develop their leadership attributes, chosen skill and also to engage with volunteering.
We encourage as many students as possible to pursue their musical talents at Ark Academy. We have a two fantastic choirs, as well as an orchestra and rock band. We offer individual and group instrumental lessons to a large number of our students. There are frequent opportunities throughout the year to perform; both in and out of school.
In KS4 we support students to review knowledge of topics and practice skills through academic study support. A combination of targeted and drop-in study support sessions across all subjects ensure students have access to subjects specialists beyond their normal timetable.
Homework clubs are provided to support independent learning. The pupil support department also provides both targeted HW support for student’s as well as daily drop ins for students who are having difficulty accessing homework, or simply getting started.
Subject allocations KS 3 & 4
Key Stage 5
Our Sixth Form opened in September 2015 and we now have a fully-fledged and thriving year 12 and 13. Students who study A-Level all follow the linear mode with terminal exams at the end of year 13 in three subjects. A small minority of pupils will study further maths as a fourth A-Level.
In addition, we offer two professional pathways qualifications, a Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Business and Applied Science. Some students following the professional pathways programme also take core maths (in year 12). Each A Level subject taken has 6 periods per week, (further maths has 8, core maths has 4) and professional pathways have 15 periods per week. The remaining periods are allocated to independent study. Having study periods and two exclusive, designated study rooms is a great privilege of being a sixth former at Ark.
We offer all year 12 students an Ark Diploma, which awards personal development through extra-curricular activities, the ‘Civitas Hour’, leading societies and clubs, community outreach and “off specification” learning. The Ark Diploma appeals to universities because it is evidence that students are active and well-rounded young people – someone universities would want on their campuses.
Our primary focus at Key Stage 5 is university preparation. Ark Academy supports every student in choosing the right university pathway/ high level apprenticeship and career with confidence. The programme of Mindset through Y12 PSHE and daily tutor time leading into progression choices in Year 13 is of a very high standard. Students are challenged to think deeply about their future choices.
Subject allocations KS5
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Download the Year 7 Curriculum Overview here
Download the Year 8 Curriculum Overview here
Download the Year 9 Curriculum Overview here
Download the Year 10 Curriculum Overview here
Download the Year 11 Curriculum Overview here
Download the Year 12 Curriculum Overview here
Download the Year 13 Curriculum Overview here