Ark Greenwich Free School Principal, Rhys Spiers, has spoken of his pride in the children, staff and parent community as it now ranks in the top 1% of state schools nationally following exceptional Progress 8 scores. He shares the school's journey to this success.
In 2018, Greenwich Free School joined Ark’s network of schools. We were looking for a multi-academy trust (MAT) that aligned with our vision and values, and shared our passion for enabling children from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed. Ark fitted that bill better than any other.
Educating during a pandemic
When the pandemic hit, I was grateful for support from the network. Ark’s expertise and IT resources enabled us to respond quickly by moving our lessons online as soon as we went into lockdown. The rollout of devices also played a huge role, and there's no question that this has contributed to the great progress scholars were able to make, even during periods of lockdown.
We kept in regular contact with our parents, phoning every family to check that they were okay and to make sure that any technical issues were resolved quickly, which meant that we didn't lose any learning time.
Impact on mental health
We sometimes underestimate how resilient children are, but there's no doubt that students have been affected by the last few years. In particular, we’ve seen an increase in mental health challenges. Being part of Ark has meant we can share resources and best practices, and we're much better placed to support children.
Progress 8 success
There's been a revolution in academic performance at this school over recent years. Pre-pandemic, our Progress 8 score was +0.2. That ranked in the country's top 40% of schools, but we wanted more and embarked on an improvement journey.
Our score has now shot up to +1.2, meaning children are achieving more than a whole grade higher than similar-profile children nationally. This is also the case for children benefitting from the Pupil Premium Grant and for students with SEND.
It's terrific news and ranks us in the top one percent of nearly 4000 schools nationally. We're incredibly proud of this progress and want to continue building on this success.
As an Ark school, we're uniquely positioned to execute new approaches to a high standard. A traditional culture of high expectations and excellent behaviour underpins all we do. From there, you can build an excellent curriculum, lessons, and a flourishing extracurricular programme of school trips and activities. Being part of Ark places us in a solid position to achieve that.
Continuing the journey
The school is positioned in a challenging area with high levels of deprivation. The local authority is historically one of the lowest performing local authorities for secondary school outcomes in London. We've worked hard with our parent community to help them understand the link between high standards, expectations and academic outcomes. In a recent parent survey, 98% of parents who responded said that they now understand the connection between high standards and the school's behaviour policy, which is very positive.
It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I look at where we are now as one of the top-performing schools in the country, and it's been worth it. Our staff and students deserve our praise and tributes for all they have accomplished and will continue to do.