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News19th April 2021

A successful return to school

Ark schools have enjoyed above national average levels of student attendance since schools fully reopened in early March.

With national student attendance tracking at 93% for primary and 87% for secondary at the end of the spring term, our primary schools have seen an average of 94% pupil attendance and our secondary schools have seen an average of 90%.

This is a promising increase on the level of attendance our schools saw when they returned in September 2020 when an average 88.6% of our students across primary and secondary were in attendance.

This follows a successful period of remote learning for our students. Throughout the 2021 lockdown from January to March, we saw 98% of our students either connecting from home (89%) or being taught in one of our community classrooms (9%).

Many of those who connected from home were enabled to do so as a result of our device distribution strategy that has now seen more than 13,500 devices provided to our students to date.

As Herminder Channa MBE, Executive Principal at Ark Boulton Academy in South Birmingham, explains, “All pupils at Ark Boulton have been offered a laptop with a data dongle. Access to a digital device has meant pupils have access to a bespoke consolidation program giving pupil’s real agency and flexibility over their learning.”

While citing the successes, such as the incredible move to online learning, Herminder refers to “the resilience, determination and adaptability that has been shown by all the Boulton family” and the very mixed emotions felt during the return to school.

Describing a mix of joy, relief and an increased sense of responsibility, she said, “Staff and pupils create the joy and vibrancy that permeates our classrooms and corridors. This environment, and the security it brings has been missed by all.

“For some members of our family, they have experienced a more difficult time than others, and as educational establishments we have demonstrated we can be much more. Over the coming months and years our communities and those families most effected by the pandemic will need us more than ever.”

For Fiona Chapman, Principal of Ark Dickens Primary Academy in Portsmouth, “Reopening the doors of Dickens was eagerly anticipated by children, staff and families alike. Although the lockdown in many ways allowed a further strengthening of community relations nothing compares to physically having the children together in a school setting with their peers and their teachers.”

Fiona acknowledges the significant challenges that capitalising on the the lessons learned during lockdown presents, and helping her primary students recover from the “hiatus to learning in a collective setting”.

With an ethos that echoes across our school communities, Fiona says, “As with anything in life, challenges simply serve to strengthen you for what lies ahead. The tapestry of life is rich and what matters now is what our children do with their experiences. Never has the duty of educators been so vital and so rewarding to shape future lives.”