Laura Stone is Vice Principal for Culture and Ethos at Ark Putney. She also worked in Ark's Central team before returning to the classroom. Here, she shares her experiences working in different positions across the network. Laura's story is part of our #ArkPeople series.
From the classroom to the office
I started at Ark Burlington Danes Academy (BDA) as a Head of Geography in 2010 and was promoted to Vice Principal. Nine years later, I joined Ark Teacher Training as Interim Head, where I stayed for nearly two years. Working across all four regions and in the primary and secondary phases was excellent, as you can't normally do anything like that when you're based in a secondary school.
The Ark Teacher Training team is an incredible bunch of teachers with a broad skill set, and I developed so much during my time with them. The teacher training sector was under reform, and it was exciting to be working on a new curriculum and making plans for the programme's future. It was utterly different from being a Vice Principal in leading the team, managing the budget, and overseeing all our schools and those outside the network that used our programme. I worked with different teams and colleagues and saw the bigger picture of how Ark Central supports schools. It wasn't something I ever thought I'd do, but I'm so glad I decided to step out of school for that time, as it has helped me in my new role at Ark Putney. It also felt less scary, knowing there would be many opportunities to return to school once I saw something suitable.
Equipping leaders through brilliant training
Having spent some time working in the Central team, I was keen to get back into a school, so when the role at Ark Putney came up, I jumped at it. Moving schools within Ark is much easier as you're already aligned with the vision and know the IT systems, training and learning structures, etc, so you can concentrate on getting to know your students, families, and colleagues – it was a smooth transition.
I've also been fortunate to do excellent training and courses at Ark, as the Continuing Professional Development is brilliant and all relevant to my current role. There are opportunities for experiences in and out of school. I completed the LEAD course and my NPQH, which I enjoyed as they helped me consider the broader knowledge and skills needed to lead a school successfully. What I valued most about both courses was the chance to spend time with other senior leaders working in the same context - the peer support and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues is an essential part of the courses.
Career highs and looking ahead
In the Central team, my highlights are connected to being part of a team working across both phases and getting to geek out with the geography trainees. Visiting nearly all of the primary schools in the network was an incredible privilege. The work from Reception to Year 6 blew my mind; they are places of utter joy and gave me so much to think about as a secondary school teacher, leader and a parent.
In schools, I'm proud of our work supporting young people - it's a privilege to work with them. As Head of Sixth Form at BDA, I was there on the final stages of many students’ journeys to university. For some, it was the first time anyone in their family had taken that step. Being part of Daniel Ayane's journey to Harvard, for example, was a very special moment for me.
Looking ahead to the rest of the academic year, we're celebrating Ark Putney's tenth anniversary. We are planning many events, such as holding a cultural day in July and inviting the families and local community to celebrate the incredible diversity of our school community, so there's a lot to do!
Click here to find out more about senior leadership opportunities with Ark.