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News6th April 2022

Helping students learn beyond the classroom with SPArk

SPArk is Ark’s new student-facing learning portal, which aims to enable more effective independent learning at home. The portal includes workbooks, videos, games and events for all subjects and year groups. We launched SPArk at the start of the pandemic to provide network-wide remote learning resources to students across all year groups. This accompanied the deployment of over 20,000 Chromebooks to enable our students to get online while at home.

Now that schools have returned in full, SPArk is being reimagined to support students in pursuing wider learning and interests. SPArk is proving popular as in its first six months, students visited the site over a million times, with more students logging on every day.

Please find out more about SPArk here:

We have also produced an accompanying website for parents to help them feel more confident in supporting their children’s learning and keeping safe online.

In January, we also launched SPArky – a chatbot created to provide IT support directly to students to support staff workload. SPArky can answer basic questions and signpost students to fix simple device or login problems themselves, or the bot can raise an IT service ticket on their behalf. SPArky has been introduced as part of our digital strategy, which you can read more about here.

James Chapman, Vice-Principal at Ark All Saints Academy, shared how their students, which the school calls scholars, use SPArk to encourage independent learning.

He said: “One of our values is the relentless pursuit of excellence, which means studying above and beyond the classroom or homework, so scholars engage in independent, self-guided study. SPArk has been helpful as it allows scholars to study beyond what the teacher has set for that week, encouraging independent learning.

“Before the first national lockdown in March 2020, teachers and children focused on lesson time, with not much homework happening outside of class. We’re now in a position where children know how to work at home, and the rollout of Chromebooks across the network has been phenomenally helpful in giving them the independence to do that.

“We used SPArk for our summer programme and gave scholars activities that weren’t directly curriculum-focused but engaged them in writing or reading competitions. They could find different types of challenges related to their subjects, allowing them to continue learning. It was a big thing for those scholars who might not have had other activities over the Summer and for children who loved learning and wanted to continue.

“Working independently and self-guided study is incredibly important to improving results, and progress for children who engage in this way can be exponential. When a child asks themself: ‘what do I know, and what do I need to know?’ or acknowledge that they’ve struggled to learn something in class, they can go to SPArk for a better understanding. At that point, they’re teaching themselves, and that’s when they can make rapid gains.”

Students have also been happy to share how useful they find the portal.

Evan Qejvani, Year 8, said: “I have used SPArk for homework. I also use it for revision for elements, not in my notebook. It’s helped as I got lots of notes for revision. It’s easy to use, and it’s good if you want to get information quickly and you’re not sure which book the information is in.”

Erin Moir, Year 11, said: “I have used it to research jobs and careers following signposting from Ms Mitchell. It helped me to get a better understanding of life outside of school and what I could do in the future.”