Ark’s journey started with one school, ten years ago.
Before Burlington Danes became the first Ark school in 2006, it was one of the worst performing schools in London; now, it’s considered one of the best.
In the years since opening, Ark Burlington Danes has opened a new sixth form college and a primary school, whilst the secondary school has been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. We spoke to staff and students at the school to find out what makes it so special.
Principal Michael Ribton joined the school’s leadership team in 2008 and became Principal in September 2014.
“Back in 2006, there was an article in the Evening Standard describing Burlington Danes as the worst school in Britain. The school was a profoundly sad place. Students didn’t like it at all. It was undersubscribed and had all the classic signs of a failing school.
“When I joined, the school was beginning to improve, but there was still much to be done. We held assemblies where we laid out our vision and made it clear that everyone needed to work with us to achieve it.
“We introduced the house system, and a lot of competitive sports – which encouraged students to feel proud to represent their school. We focused on the performing arts, taking part in Shakespeare festivals and putting on musical productions. I think that got a lot of buy-in from the students – particularly those who were less academic.
"Once we’d established these ways of engaging our students, the big focus was on teaching really great lessons. And that has never really left the school.
“We’re a community school – we don’t filter our intake in any way. We simply base it on proximity to the school gate by postcode. Yet we’re still competing with other schools that are selective. I’m really proud of the fact that most of our students who are going to university are the first in their families to do so.”
The Reception Teacher
Kelsey Purcell teaches the reception class at Ark Burlington Danes Primary. She’s been a part of the team since the primary school opened last September.
“I accepted the job before the school had even been built. It was so exciting to know that we were opening a new school. It’s been a lot of hard work but nice knowing at the end of the day that it has paid off.
“I previously taught Year 5, so I really appreciated the support from Ark as I transitioned to early years. It’s been helpful to talk to people from other Ark schools who had more early years experience and could guide me as I settled in.
“The most rewarding part of the experience has been seeing how far the children have come. When they joined the school last September they couldn’t even write their own names – now the majority of them can write a story. It’s incredible how they have progressed. I’m looking forward to seeing the school grow as we take on more students year after year.”
The Sixth Former
Darnell is in Year 13 and is the current Head Boy. He joined the school at age 11.
“I wanted to be Head Boy so that I could make a change and introduce new initiatives. Recently I’ve been working with a small team on clubs to help younger students in the school look at their subjects in a different way, and consider how they can use the skills they are gaining in their future careers.
“I‘ve been here since 2010. Personally, I love it, because I’ve had so many opportunities here. That level of quality teaching has been there throughout, and I’ve always felt that I am supported. I saw that when I was studying for my GCSEs. When you feel like your teachers really care, it puts the pressure on you to care for yourself as well.”
The Primary School Student
Makeda is five years old and has been coming to Ark Burlington Danes since its primary school opened in September 2015.
“My favourite thing about coming to the school is Show and Tell. This means you need to bring something into the school and tell people about it. When I did Show and Tell, I brought in a picture of my house, so that everyone knew what it looked like and where I live.
“My favourite memory from the school was learning to make my own pepperoni pizza. We also do gymnastics, I really like it.
“I like the school and the uniform that we wear. I’ve enjoyed doing Literacy lessons. We were doing that this morning. I’m also reading my phonics books and I’m on stage ‘Yellow’. That’s a good stage to be on because there’s just two stages left, and then I’ll know all my sounds. Then I can read all the books I like.”
You can find out more about Ark Burlington Danes Academy on the website – including careers, and information about admissions to the school.