Ark St Alban’s Academy has been shortlisted for Secondary School of the Year at the Times Education Supplement (TES) School Awards 2016. Ark St Alban’s is one of just eight schools in the country to be shortlisted for this prestigious award. The school has also been shortlisted for the Science, Technology and Engineering Team of the Year Award making it one of the only schools to be shortlisted in two categories.
Now in its eighth year, the TES Schools Awards celebrate the extraordinary commitment, quality and innovation shown by teachers and support staff across the UK. The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on Friday 24th June.
The Secondary School of the Year Award recognises schools which have experienced rapid improvement and those that are maintaining continued excellence – while also demonstrating innovation, imagination and efforts to develop children in ways that go beyond the league tables.
The Science, Technology and Engineering Team of the Year Award recognises excellence and innovative teaching in science, technology or engineering with judges looking for clear examples of innovation and quantifiable evidence of the success of any initiative.
Principal Mark Gregory said: “I am absolutely thrilled that we have been nominated for two TES School Awards. Leading a school like Ark St Alban’s is a privilege and I’m incredibly proud that the hard work of our staff, students and their parents has been recognised in this way. We’re very much looking forward to the awards ceremony in June!”
In January 2016, Ark St Alban’s Academy received a Pupil Premium Award from the Department for Education in recognition of the value added that the school provides for its most disadvantaged students.
This was the latest in a series of accolades that positions Ark St Alban’s as one of the best schools in the country – despite being situated in one of the most deprived wards in Birmingham, with 75% of students being FSM-eligible at least once in the last six years.
In 2015, 83% of pupils at the academy achieved A*–C in GCSE English – a remarkable achievement in a school which has 72% EAL students – and 82% in mathematics. The EBacc standard was achieved by 45% of students, almost double the national average, giving the school the highest EBacc rate of any state comprehensive in Birmingham. Overall, 69% of students achieved at least five A* - C grades including English and mathematics.
The determination to deliver transformative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education at Ark St Alban’s is reaping its rewards. In 2015, student Malik won a sponsored place at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment after winning the Millennium Point Young Innovator Prize, Tayyaba was the first student in Birmingham to be awarded Kaplan’s £15,000 Accountancy Scholarship, and Miski secured a £30,000 Reuben Scholarship to study Biochemistry at Warwick University.
Kamilah McGregor, a maths teacher at Ark St Alban’s, said: “Ark St Alban’s has an Engineering specialism, which is great as a maths teacher. Students here get five hours of maths a week, so it’s not just something for the classroom – it’s embedded across the whole school’s culture.
“The Engineering department is really impressive and the machines they have are more specialised than those you’d see in most other schools. It’s a really exciting thing to be involved with and a great team to be a member of.”
But life at St Alban’s is about more than academic excellence. Students are prepared for life in modern Britain, and life beyond school, often tackling some of the most challenging issues of the day.
In March 2015, the school hosted the first West Midlands Summit on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which they jointly organised with the Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK), the Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development (FORWARD), and West Midlands Police (WMP). In March 2016, they hosted a conference on Forced Marriage, partnering with the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), WMP and MWNUK. The students are central in the organisation of these conferences, sitting on the organising committee, developing conference themes, and speaking at the event - sharing the platform with high profile speakers such as local MP Shabana Mahmood.
Ark St Alban’s is one of six Ark schools in Birmingham, many of which have also been identified as leading educational institutions. This year, Ark Kings Academy in Kings Norton, Birmingham, was declared the most improved academy in the country and both Ark Boulton and Ark Chamberlain, which joined the network in September 2015 after being placed in special measures, have been praised for their work on quickly raising educational standards.
Ark St Alban's also has a strong reputation for staff development and will next month host a conference, which is open to all teachers, on new linear exam specifications and preparing students for GCSEs without coursework and modular exams.