Supporting Ark students through the pandemic

All 38 schools in the Ark network are supporting their students through the COVID-19 pandemic with dedicated measures to enable digital access, accelerate learning and protect wellbeing.

The pandemic has caused significant disruption for all schools and Ark staff have been working tirelessly to keep classrooms open – and to ensure students catch up from the loss of learning time and continue to thrive into the future.

Ark's recovery programme is designed to help students catch-up from lost learning time and provide them with the skills and support to ensure they thrive over the long term. It includes:

Enabling remote learning

All of Ark's students in Year 4 and above are to be issued with brand new Google Chromebooks following a survey by Ark schools this term showing that more than half of all students did not have access to a digital device suitable for remote learning. More than 8,000 devices – funded by the Ark charity - have already been delivered to schools. Another 9,900 devices are due to be distributed over the next six months in addition to more than 4,300 devices provided by the Department for Education. The provision of devices also forms a vital part of a longer-term digital strategy to enhance independent learning for all Ark students.

Providing accelerated learning

Throughout the first national lockdown, classrooms were closed to most students. This left many losing vital learning time, and some have fallen behind where their teachers would expect them to be. To help students catch up, our primary and secondary teachers were supported to revise the sequence of their curricula to deliver the most effective catch-up lessons in English and maths. Alongside this Ark has recruited more than 50 graduate teaching assistants and deployed Ark alumni to provide 1:1 and small group tuition for the students most in need of support.

Protecting students’ wellbeing

An assessment undertaken within Ark’s secondary schools found that one in seven students were struggling with emotional problems such as anxiety and low mood. Ark has been working with organisations such as Place2Be and Healthy Minds to provide mental health counselling for those in most acute need and develop the skills within schools to spot mental health problems as they occur.  Across the network, Ark has trained 118 teachers, year heads, pastoral leads, and teaching assistants to increase their understanding.

Matt Jones, Principal of Ark Globe Academy, described the challenges that Ark Schools are striving to tackle: "The COVID-19 crisis and school closures have disproportionately affected the communities that Ark Schools serve. Firstly, the school closures created a learning gap for many of our students. Secondly, students' mental health and wellbeing has become challenging and, thirdly, it's exposed a digital gap for access to online resources."

Ark's Chief Executive, Lucy Heller, said: “Our school leaders have gone above and beyond over the last period; they have continued to deliver high-quality teaching and supported their school communities. The pandemic has had a major impact on schools, but we are determined that our students get the support they need to help them recover and thrive.”

Ark's recovery programme is funded by philanthropic donations to Ark charity's Coronavirus Appeal launched in the summer and additional support from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. All devices will be available to individual students by the start of the next academic year.

Please find out more about our COVID-19 programme: https://arkonline.org/our-covid-19-response