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Impact28th November 2023

Exceptional achievement in a challenging context

In 2023, Ark Kings primary outperformed their local area by 22 percentage points

We don’t dwell on the context and have high ambitions for every pupil. We plan the sequencing of the curriculum meticulously and track each child’s progress individually, putting in place whatever we feel they need to do their best.

Jamie Taylor Primary Head of School, Ark Kings

Ark Kings serves a community of high need in Birmingham, with 72 percent of students eligible for free school meals (the national average is 24 percent).

In 2023, 80 percent of students met the expected standard in reading and maths, outperforming the local area by 22 percentage points, and the national average by 20 percentage points.

Jamie Taylor, Primary Head of School:

“At the start of the year, only around 7% of the cohort were working at the level we would want them to be at for secondary school. Many students didn’t want to complete test papers because they feared failing. There was a lack of emotional resilience. A lot of our children have had instability in their lives and that affects how well they manage more stressful situations like assessments. Our community is one of high deprivation where around 80% of children are eligible for free school meals.

“We don’t dwell on the context and have high ambitions for every student. The proudest moment for me was that by the end of the year 80% of students met the expected standard in maths and English. We achieved that by focusing on every single child, the progress we felt they could make whether we thought they would pass the SATs or not. We planned the sequencing of the curriculum meticulously and tracked each child’s progress in review meetings. Two questions were key to our child-centred approach: ‘Who are you as a person? Who are you as a learner?’

“We have made the school like an oasis for students where everything is predictable and consistent. For the SATs, we did mocks where every single detail was the same for them as it would be on the day: the adults, the rooms, the timings. We put in place whatever we felt a child needed to do their best. We were probably most proud of how the children were emotionally during the assessments. They had grown in their self-esteem and confidence, which is one of the most important ways we can help prepare them for the future.”