Transforming lives through education
Ark is an education charity that exists to make sure that all children, regardless of their background, have access to a great education and real choices in life.
We started with one school, ten years ago
Before Ark Burlington Danes became the first Ark school in 2006, it was one of the most underperforming schools in London; now, it’s considered one of the best. We’ve always believed that, with the right approach, every school has the potential to succeed - even those in the most challenging circumstances. Nothing should be a barrier to children achieving.
From working with just one school, Ark has since grown into a network of 36 schools in the UK - and is now recognised as one of the highest achieving academy groups in the country.
We still only work in the communities where we can make the biggest difference to children’s lives, and all our schools are non-selective. We’re extremely proud of what they have achieved - Ark’s King Solomon Academy, for example, was ranked as the best comprehensive secondary school in the country in 2016, despite being located in the neighbourhood with the highest level of child poverty in London.
As our network has grown, so have our ambitions
We want to change the lives of children everywhere, not just in our own schools. So we create and incubate ventures designed not only to help pupils in Ark schools, but also to improve education systems as a whole. These ventures tackle some of the most intractable problems facing children – including poor numeracy, inadequate support for dyslexic pupils, and the lack of quality social workers.
We innovate, learn and adapt - and then we share it
Things can only be changed through hard work, high expectations and evidence-driven approaches. In some cases, it could be about tweaking the way a lesson is taught; in others, it's changing the way we think about training teachers. For instance, in the UK, our structured approach to teacher training and professional development is helping to embed outstanding teaching in our schools– for trainee teachers right through to executive headteachers.
And we don't stop at training our own teachers. Programmes such as Ambition School Leadership and Mathematics Mastery are now training teachers and school leaders in hundreds of schools across the UK.
Working in partnership is key to everything we do, locally and globally
We can have a bigger impact when we work with others, such as governments and education organisations, as well as people at a local level too. From having key members of the community as governors, to engaging parents and taking part in local events, our schools work with others to create happy, safe communities.
Working in partnership has also allowed us to extend our impact to other countries – spreading our expertise through initiatives designed to improve entire education systems. Through Ark’s Education Partnerships Group, we’re working to bring governments and education organisations closer together to create better schools. In India and Uganda, this involves implementing new ways of tracking and improving school quality and student performance. In Kenya and South Africa, we're developing low-cost school information systems to drive student progress through better use of data.
We have also opened our first school outside the UK: a primary school in India, opened in cooperation with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. This is the first of many free high-quality primary schools that we hope will serve as a new model for the country.
Working together is key to everything we do: whether that’s teachers sharing resources across countries, or children from different schools helping each other to perform a song on stage. Our work has greater impact when we share knowledge and expertise.
We are driven by the belief that every child can succeed if they have the right opportunities
Over recent years, we have seen some life-changing results. However it is only the beginning. We're committed to transforming even more lives through education.
Our schools follow the same set of underlying principles. We call these the Six Pillars:
1. High expectations
We believe that every child can achieve great things. So we set exceptionally high expectations for all our pupils, and we do whatever it takes to meet them. Our aspirations are no lower for our most vulnerable pupils.
2. Exemplary behaviour
Our schools are characterised by a respectful and orderly environment, where teachers can focus on teaching and pupils can focus on learning. We teach, recognise and reinforce good behaviour, and we don't tolerate poor behaviour. We don't accept any excuses, and we don't make any either.
3. Excellent teaching
A teacher affects a pupil's achievement more than any other factor. We work side-by-side with teaching staff, supporting them with training and development so that they can deliver excellent teaching. To make sure that no pupil is left behind, we've developed data management tools which help teachers to monitor progress - this shows when pupils, or indeed teaching staff, need extra support.
4. Depth before breadth
When children build firm foundations in English and maths, they find it easier to do well in other subjects too. That's why we prioritise depth in these subjects, giving our pupils the best chance of success.
We've developed Mathematics Mastery to support our children in maths - this highly-effective approach is inspired by successful teaching methods from around the world, and is also endorsed by Ofsted. As well as being used in all of our primary schools, Mathematics Mastery is being used by over 100 schools outside Ark. We also dedicate more time to literacy and English, to nurture a love of reading and develop fluent communication skills. We train all of our teachers to recognise the barriers children might face in building literacy skills, and show them how to support pupils who need more help.
5. More time for learning
To make sure children have enough time both for core subjects and for extra-curricular activities, many of our schools run a longer school day. Others are open at weekends and during school holidays, offering masterclasses and revision sessions. Many Ark schools offer residential stays, day trips and summer schools. In every school, no time is wasted - every hour of every day is devoted to children learning.
6. Knowing every child
We organise our schools so that every child knows, and is known well by, every adult in the school.
We also recognise that children do best when families and schools work together. We keep parents well informed about children's targets, and we involve families in all aspects of school life.