Last summer five Ark teachers were given the opportunity to travel to Uganda and South Africa to teach alongside colleagues working to improve education in sub-Saharan Africa.
These trips were sponsored and arranged as part of a programme called Ark Fellows; the Fellows programme matches teachers with leadership experience in the Ark network , with schools in the developing world in need of their expertise. In exchange for giving up their holidays Fellows get a truly unique professional development experience, and in the words of one Fellow “an outstanding experience that I will never forget.”
Hayley Francis, a teacher from Ark Oval Primary Academy in Croydon, and Mark Critchard, Head of Maths at Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, were sent to Uganda to help improve the professional development of teachers at schools in rural communities run by our partner PEAS. “I had an amazing experience as an Ark Fellow,” said Ms Francis, adding, “meeting the pupils in the PEAS schools was the highlight of my trip. Seeing how much they value and enjoy their education was motivating and inspiring. Despite the many challenges they face, they were committed to learn.”
The Fellows programme offers the chance to give back, but also to develop professionally in a challenging environment, as attested to by Mr Critchard after he returned: “the two weeks we spent in Uganda were amazing. Working so closely with staff from such a different context was both rewarding and great for my own development as a teacher. I would love to stay involved with PEAS beyond the Fellows and would happily go again.”
Guy Rimmer, Deputy Headteacher at King Solomon Academy, Sherelle Bushay a teacher at Oval, and Daniela Grasso from Ark Bentworth Primary Academy were given assignments in Johannesburg, South Africa to support the SPARK Schools network. South Africa’s education system continues to hold the country back: it was recently ranked as having the worst maths and science education in a global survey, and just 50% of children graduate secondary school. In such a difficult context the Fellows had their work cut out for them.
“I had the opportunity to work with classroom teachers and it was clear that, although they cared about children’s education, they did not always feel they had the skills and knowledge to support them effectively,” said Ms Bushay. “Not knowing where to start was one of the biggest challenges teachers faced.”
The Fellows modelled lessons with local staff and helped them practice and grow as practitioners by showing them how to collect and use data to track learning. “We were able to show them the importance of knowing the next steps and how to plan lessons using data,” said Ms Bushay. The Fellows were able to work with a network at the forefront of innovation in South Africa, as noted by Ms Grasso: “SPARK Schools have made the big leap into unknown territory in South Africa by using data to support planning and teaching.”
“I was struck by the number of questions teachers and leaders wanted to ask on such a wide-range of topics,” said Mr Rimmer. “Within London, there are numerous examples of excellence in schools that members of my school community can look to for advice and guidance. SPARK has no one local to turn to- making its partnership with Ark so important.”
“The Ark Fellows programme was an outstanding experience that I will never forget. It developed me as a leader and gave me the chance to observe and experience education in a very different setting.” said Ms Grasso. “I would recommend the programme to colleagues next year as I believe it is a great programme to become involved in,” said Ms Bushay.
We are looking for a combination of exceptional teachers who have experience training their peers, and outstanding school leaders who can support our partners as they strive for excellence in challenging circumstances. Find out more here, or contact Katherine.Pollendine@arkonline.org for more information.