The Global Schools Forum (GSF) and Ark Fellowship programme was launched to help foster peer learning and professional development for Ark staff and some of GSF’s member organisations.
This summer, two new Fellows – Khaleda Qureshi, Head of Design and Technology at Ark St Alban’s Academy, and Hannah Bridges, Vice-Principal at Ark Conway Primary – travelled to Kenya to improve education outcomes in Nairobi, in partnership with Dignitas.
We ask Khaleda and Hannah to reflect on their experiences.
Our journey officially started in mid-August as we were delayed because Kenya was in the middle of an election. There was some concern that might be some fallout – thankfully, everything went smoothly!
Our remit was to work with Dignitas on their Professional Learning Communities (PLC). This project assessed their system for their teachers to help improve their classroom and school practice. The PLC was introduced to support schools and teachers to help themselves to identify and problem-solve with their community.
In our first week, we had our first presentation to the Dignitas Project to show what our findings were so far from their manual. It was very nerve-racking speaking in front of such well-experienced practitioners.
We were invited to join their training session on Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). This new education system in Kenya is currently set to replace the 8-4-4 education system introduced in 2017. We learnt a lot from this session, which helped us inform our research and understanding of the curriculum in Kenya and some of the challenges.
We also visited two schools to observe a lesson and a PLC in action. The first school was Mosester Basics in the Imara Daima area, situated in informal settlements. The class work and management were among the most outstanding lessons we had seen. Our second school was Siloam D, where we observed how a PLC was run by the school leaders that Dignitas had trained. This gave us much more insight into the process and what they were trying to achieve and improve.
Our final presentation and training session was on our last few days in Kenya. We refined their manual and showed procedures to enable more progressive meetings. We also provided resources based on the CBC training and anticipating their subsequent training situations.
When I look back, I didn't realise how Ark started until we had the induction for the Fellowship programme. Once I understood the background and the reasons for the programme, I could connect it all.
When we were in Kenya, I was initially anxious about delivering the training. By the end of the trip, I realised I could do this type of work. I've taught in Thailand before and have always been fascinated by comparisons in international education. Now I'm learning more about Ark's Ventures and will be looking for opportunities to get involved.
One of the reasons I joined Ark seven years ago was because it's a charity, and I could see it was so much more than the work in schools. Ark genuinely cares about all children everywhere, but sometimes in my day-to-day job, it can be easy to forget that and focus on the immediate tasks.
There are ways of working I learned in Kenya that I've brought back to Conway, especially ideas for our Early Years setting and Dignitas's approach to teacher coaching. I've taken their model, and I'm using it with three members of staff that need that little bit of extra support. I'm doing a small impact initiative for myself to see where we can go
A refreshing aspect when working with the Kenyan teachers was that our curriculums are different, but we focussed on how the children are learning and how we teach. This is the first time I've been able to focus on pedagogy like that. To see the universality of what works in teaching was incredible.
Keen to read more? We talked with two other recent GSF Fellows, Connor McElwaine from Ark Pioneer Academy and Sarah Al-Hanoush from Ark Boulton Academy, about their time in Ndola, Zambia working with Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS), which you can read here.