At Ark Acton we do things slightly differently. We have taken ideas from all over the world and applied them to our school to help us become the best school we can be. Our pledge is our way of guaranteeing that we ensure every student receives the challenge or support that they need in order to flourish.

One of these ideas is to adopt an inverted triangle model of student grouping. What this means is that we run small set classes in each year group for students who need intensive support to catch up and then we run wider ability groupings for the rest of the year group. We do this because in many schools they run tight sets that stratify the year group and bake-in underperformance across all attainment bands. One study explains the problem like this:

“In brief, teachers teaching bottom sets were generally the least well qualified to teach mathematics, had lower expectations of their students, frequently set work that was undemanding (often just copying off the chalkboard), used a narrower range of teaching approaches and hardly ever responded to students’ frequent requests for more demanding work. In contrast, top sets tended to be allocated well-qualified teachers, who tended to go too fast for many students. Most importantly, teachers teaching setted classes tended to treat the whole class as being of identical ‘ability’ and made little or no provision for differentiation. The same teachers, when teaching mixed-ability classes, used a wider range of approaches, took greater account of individual differences, and were, in our admittedly subjective view, better teachers...”
‘It’s not which school but which set you’re in that matters: the influence of ability grouping practices on student progress in mathematics.’ Dylan Wiliam & Hannah Bartholomew, King’s College London, UK. BERJ (2004.)

The research reported here suggests that it doesn’t really matter very much which school you go to. However, it matters very much which set you get put into. Our model – explained below – doesn’t fall into this trap and ensures every student gets a great deal every day.


How do we find out what our students already know and can do?

When a student first arrives at Ark Acton Academy; either at the start of the academic year in September or during the academic year, they sit a series of nationally referenced tests to help us understand what they know and can do and therefore what we should teach them next.
These tests are in:

  • Reading
  • English
  • Maths
  • Science

Based on the outcomes of these tests we may do additional tests such as CATS or another reading screener to ensure we can put the right support or challenge in place.


What does this look like in Key Stage 3 (Yrs 7-9)

  • The vast majority of the year group are in broadly mixed groups being taught the full curriculum.
  • One smaller group in each year group will receive 2 hours a week of additional English and not study an MFL. They will also be in a smaller reading group with students at a similar reading age to them.


What does this look like in Key Stage 4 (Yrs 10-11)

  • Students are in sets for the core subjects.
  • Students are in broadly mixed groups for their options subjects.
  • One smaller group in each year group will study one option subject and have an additional 3 hours a week of English and an additional 3 hours a week of Maths.


We believe this model enables us to provide extra support and catch-up where it is needed and push and challenge students who are ready for it.