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Profile18th June 2021

Have the desire and passion to make a difference to young people

Joseph Townsend trained with Ark Teacher Training (ATT) in 2014 and has never looked back. He shares his journey from leaving university and working abroad to training with ATT at Ark Atwood Primary Academy in West London, where he’s now Assistant Headteacher. Joseph is part of our #ArkPeople series.

Desire to teach

When I finished my Philosophy degree at the University of Sheffield, I decided to experience living and working in another country. So, I took a CELTA course (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and then travelled to South Korea before working in Japan for almost four years. I taught various students, from babies to businesspeople, and realised that I most enjoyed working with younger students. I felt you could see the most significant impact over time and the positive impression you could have on forming young minds.

When I returned from Japan, I started to explore primary school teacher training. I had various short-term positions working as a teaching assistant at local authorities and schools led by multi-academy trusts, covering a range of year groups and educational settings.

Ark’s training programme appealed to me due to the diverse communities they serve across London. I looked at individual schools to understand their vision, values and opportunities for growth, which led me to believe Ark Atwood would provide strong professional development and a great learning environment.

I interviewed with the then headteacher Daniel Upfield (now based at Ark Swift), and successfully passed the interview process. Fortunately, he asked if I’d be interested in training at Ark Atwood. After visiting the school, I was convinced it was the place for me.

I trained in Year 2 with possibly the best primary school teacher I’ve ever worked with, Stephanie Lester. She was a huge influence, a skilled practitioner, and a great teacher. I was lucky to have her as my coach. My ATT Lead Joanna Rees supported me and her work as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENDCo) piqued my interest in this area, as she modelled fantastic practice for our pupils.

The ATT programme didn’t feel rigid in Atwood; I always felt that I could talk to my team, coach or ATT lead, and they’d help. Now, as an ATT Lead, I try my best to continue this and ensure trainees are supported to develop personally and professionally as teachers – giving them the space to explore and try different approaches. Our coaches are rigorous, our classroom practices are so robust, and teachers are invested in helping their trainees succeed, which is communicated early on. We’ve got a successful track record of keeping trainees. Many have gone on to middle leadership roles throughout our school.

Being part of the Ark network

In 2019, I became Assistant Headteacher and Inclusion Lead. I’m extremely grateful to work with an excellent supportive Leadership team led by James Evelyn, our Headteacher. I’ve learned a lot from Ark’s vision and values, thinking about implementing these to real practical effect each day. Children may have very different starting points in life, but we show them opportunities through education and experiences – communicating a way to hopefully access more success throughout life—all school’s present words or acronyms as their values.

However, in Ark Atwood, we constantly reflect upon and develop our practice based upon these. Our teaching team are incredibly dedicated, and I am consistently in awe of their hard work! We know what ‘good’ looks like in practice, which links back to how we train our teachers and runs throughout the ATT programme. It’s incredible to see trainees graduate and become qualified teachers and walking into their classrooms at the new academic year starts having seen their journey.

Training during a pandemic

The pandemic has been interesting because it is inadvertently equipping trainees with skills that they might not have gained if not for the eventualities like online learning or community classroom. Trainees have had new challenges; however, these also present unique learning opportunities.

For example, we all had to think about planning and delivering teaching through a virtual platform or supporting students remotely and engaging with families in their home settings. It’s provided us with a whole new skill set that will be hugely beneficial in the future. We also had to adapt our teaching approach, coaching and provision for trainees thinking about work-around to restrictions and how to make the most of in-school experiences.

Advice for potential applicants

I would prepare thoroughly, have the right mindset, and understand the challenges ahead. Training to teach is hard, and Ark Teacher Training is rightly selective about the people they want to be part of the network; that’s the kind of people who make a difference in students’ lives and drive student progress.

If you have the desire and passion for working with young people, you can learn everything else!

Ready to join us? Apply before 30th June for a September 2021 start