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News7th June 2021

Ark Walworth Academy sets an outward-facing example

Principal Jessica West with students at Ark Walworth Academy, situated just off of the Old Kent Road in South East London, is engaging with its community to drive down student exclusions and to create life-changing opportunities for its students. The school’s work has recently been recognised by inclusion in the shortlist for the TES Community and Collaboration Award, the winner of which will be announced later in the month.

Ark Walworth has seen the rate of Fixed-Term Exclusions (suspensions) drop from 10.9% in 2017-18 to 0% this year. The success is due to a bespoke behaviour intervention programme called the Seacole Unit. This is a quiet space that gives students time to reflect on their choices while keeping up with their work and talking to professionals. The unit enables students to reintegrate successfully into their original setting and its success is being shared through a partnership model that lets other local schools access the unit free of charge.

As one leader from a multi-academy trust responsible for a neighbouring school said, “Ark Walworth Academy stands out for its single-minded drive to provide a safe haven for local children. It is located in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country, where pupils have regular encounters with knife crime and gang-related violence.

“Principal Jessica West has established Walworth as a truly inclusive school that works in close collaboration with local organisations and agencies to ensure pupils are safe, supported and in education.”

Alongside its work to drastically reduce exclusions, the school has also been commended for its approach to building opportunities for its students. Approximately 270 young people from Years 10 and 12 undertake a week’s work experience placement each year thanks to partnership work with barristers’ chambers, real estate developers, leading restaurants, campaigning charities, universities and local councils to give students life-changing opportunities.

This is in addition to an array of extra-curricular enrichment activities that help to develop students to become active citizens, keen to make a positive contribution to their community. Whether it’s through first aid qualifications, learning sign language, upcycling discarded pallets to produce furniture, gardening or investigative journalism, the activities are all run by school staff and benefit both the students and the local community.

One symbol of the school’s success is that it is seeing a significant number of students going to Russell Group universities in successive years, markedly in excess of national averages. The school attributes a lot of this success to the horizon-expanding activities that come from being an outward-looking and community-minded school.

Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle said, “I am in full support of Walworth Academy receiving a community and collaboration award for the incredible support it has shown to its students, parents and the wider community here in Southwark.”

Principal Jessica West adds, “I am absolutely delighted for the team here at Ark Walworth Academy to have their great work recognised. To be shortlisted is such an achievement and speaks to the way our team values the community, recognising that all within the Walworth Academy Family have an important contribution to make in shaping the future of our young people.

“I am privileged and proud to lead such a committed and passionate group of staff, families and young people.”

The award winner will be announced on 25 June at TES School Awards 2021. Our fingers are crossed for them.