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Nearly 2,000 teachers and teaching assistants from across the Ark network came together last Friday (12 February) for a day of professional development, collaboration and celebration as part of Ark’s Education Conference.

The day started with a series of 30 bespoke professional development sessions for teaching staff spread across two conference centres in Westminster- everything from helping primary teachers with their students’ handwriting, to sixth-form teachers co-planning their A-Level Psychology lessons. The day culminated in a closing ceremony which celebrated individual schools’ hard work and acheivements, with keynotes from Ark’s Chief Exectuive and Director of Education. The main part of the closing ceremony involved staff being recognised for achieving outstanding results or displaying particular professional excellence. The awards were based on one of Ark’s Six Pillars, with award winners selected as exemplars of each pillar.

Ark Kings Academy English teacher Dr Elizabeth Rhodes, who won the Secondary Award for Excellent Teaching, said: “It’s lovely to have your hard work recognised in such a public way. I really value Ark events like the conference which allow teachers from a range of contexts to get together, share best practice and celebrate the fantastic work we’re doing to ensure that students from the poorest backgrounds get the education they deserve.

“I know there are far more teachers in the network and beyond who deserve acknowledgement for what they do, but I’m very proud to play a little part in such important work.”

As Head of English at the school, Dr Rhodes was also personally cited as a major factor in Ark Kings Academy being named as the most improved school in Birmingham and the most improved sponsored academy in the country.

Ark Blacklands Primary Academy teacher Darren Regnier was awarded the Primary Award for Excellent Teaching for driving a 15 point improvement to Year 6 results, leading to Ark Blacklands having the most improved SATs results in Hastings and St Leonards. In addition, he also led the school to sporting success, having coached the school team to win the Hastings Town Sports three years in a row.

Isaac Newton Academy teaching assistant and phonics leader Farhana Ali was awarded the Primary Teaching Assistant Excellent Teaching Award, having been described as “inspirational” by colleagues.

Ark Elvin Academy teaching Assistant Abir Abdul Rahman won the Secondary Teaching Assistant Award for her outstanding work with students with English as an additional language and hearing difficulties. Principal Annabel Bates said: “Progress in lessons has increased significantly for pupils who Abir is working with, and their behaviour has been exceptional.

“She is a fabulous colleague and all children and adults in the school think she is wonderful!”

Other successes included Ark Conway Primary Academy, which won the “Depth before Breadth” and “Exemplary Behaviour” Primary Awards, and King Solomon Academy, which won the “High Expectations” Secondary Award after being named as the highest-performing comprehensive secondary in the country.

Ark Education Conference Music Flash Mob from ARK on Vimeo.

Full awards list

Depth before Breadth:

Primary winner – Ark Conway Primary Academy

Secondary winner – Bolingbroke Academy

Knowing every child:

Primary Winner – Ark Swift Primary Academy

Secondary winner – Ark St Alban’s Academy

Exemplary behaviour:

Primary winner – Ark Conway Primary Academy

Secondary winner – Ark John Keats Academy

More time for learning:

Primary winner – Ark Franklin Primary Academy

Secondary winner – Ark Burlington Danes Academy

Excellent teaching:

Primary Teaching Assistant of the Year – Farhana Ali, Isaac Newton Academy

Primary Teacher of the Year – Darren Regnier, Ark Blacklands Primary Academy

Secondary Teaching Assistant of the Year – Abir Abdul Rahman, Ark Elvin Academy

Secondary Teacher of the Year – Elizabeth Rhodes, Ark Kings Academy

High expectations:

Primary winner – Ark Bentworth Primary Academy

Secondary winner – King Solomon Academy