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Opinion16th February 2015

Sparking improved teaching through better data: An Ark Fellow in South Africa

Daniella Grasso is the inclusion manager at Ark Bentworth Primary Academy in West London. She was selected as part of the Ark Global Teaching Fellowship Programme and spent two weeks in South Africa in August 2014, sharing knowledge with one of Ark’s partners, SPARK Schools.

“In the UK, and of course at Ark schools, we have a set of age-related expectations for children that are set nationally and are referred to in every educational setting. We use evidence from this national data to influence changes in education. Our schools are data-led, and good understanding of the data produces good results for pupils.

“In South Africa, this emphasis on data and its impact on school teaching does not exist. There are no age-related expectations for children. Many teachers find themselves teaching to the end of year national test. They don’t always understand where the children have come from or what they need to know next.”

Ms Grasso was placed with SPARK Schools, a network of primary schools dedicated to delivering accessible, high quality education in South African communities. Her task was to help teachers and school leaders come up with plans on how to better collect and use data to improve educational outcomes.

“In SPARK Schools, they want to better use data to inform practice. We were able to show them how to plan lessons better using student achievement data. SPARK Schools have made the big leap into unknown territory in South Africa by using data to support planning and teaching: It’s important work that can make a substantial difference in students’ lives and I was pleased to have the chance to have been part of it.

“The Ark Global Teaching Fellowship was an outstanding experience that I will never forget. It helped me develop as a leader and gave me the chance to observe and experience education in a very different setting.”

The Ark Globalk Teaching Fellowship programme is an opportunity for talented and ambitious teachers and school leaders to work in our international schools during summer or Easter holidays. Working with a partner school in South Africa, India or Uganda, Fellows share their expertise in school leadership and best practice. We are looking for a combination of exceptional teachers who have experience training their peers, and outstanding school leaders who can support our partners as they strive for excellence in challenging circumstances.

To apply or find out more information: email: and use the subject line Ark Fellows