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?

Pupils learn in a carefully planned mixed-attainment model in Key Stage 3. Teachers use data to drive their in-the-moment responses to pupil learning, strategically gathering pupils’ knowledge and understanding through our codified model of Checking for Understanding. This allows for intervention at the point of error, through real-time feedback and live class or group re-teaching. Our model of assessment is described in question 3 below.

Pupils spend more time in Key Stage 3 currently on English than Maths. This is to enable us to provide more time for creative writing and writing development. In order to achieve the Academy mission this is a necessary curriculum adjustment. We know that our student population tend to have better understanding in Maths rather than English and the complexity and ambition of our English curriculum and the texts we read requires this time in order for our pupils to develop the language required for academic expression.

Our Ebacc ambition is to ensure 75% of our students study the suite of qualifications at Key Stage 4 by September 2023 and 90% by 2024 and we achieve this through the design of our options model for Y10.

In order to achieve the Academy vision and ensure all students can access and progress through our ambitious curriculum, we deploy a range of strategies that focus on a high challenge, low threshold model of support to enable all students to access and succeed in our ambitious curriculum vision.

Student group

Pedagogical adaptations

Measuring impact

SEND students

  • Booklets that focus on the core knowledge and skills to aid working memory
  • All teachers have an appraisal objective linked to SEND pedagogical strategies
  • Intentional Monitoring and live feedback through a data-led seating plan and planned journey around the classroom during deliberate practice.
  • Targeted questioning and CFU based on pupil passport and core knowledge booklets.
  • TA deployment and strategies
  • Data-led seating plans
  1. Fortnightly CLM review meetings
  2. QA cycle
  3. Book scrutiny
  4. DE
  5. Appraisal
  6. Exams analysis

Disadvantaged students

  • Providing 7 periods a week of English to every student in Key Stage 3 to rapidly address widespread literacy issues.
  • Enhancing teacher effectiveness through the implementation of two strategies:
  1. Shortening the feedback loop through intentional monitoring so disadvantaged students get regular feedback on their work to help them refine and improve the quality of their writing.
  2. Developing our explicit vocabulary instruction using Beck’s 6 step model for tier 2 and the Frayer model for tier 3 and improving modelling of how to use vocabulary in academic writing.
  1. Fortnightly CLM review meetings
  2. QA cycle
  3. Book scrutiny
  4. DE
  5. Exams analysis

New arrivals

  • We temporarily reduce the breadth of the curriculum offer for new arrivals to the Academy who, after testing are shown to have significant language need. This lasts for no more than 6 weeks. We do this by removing them from humanities subjects. The rationale for removing them from Humanities is that these are cumulative and not hierarchical subjects so you are able to miss out a unit of work or even a term and not be disadvantaged as opposed to being removed from a hierarchical subject such as Science or MFL whereby missing a unit or term of work would mean missing developing the forward-projecting foundational knowledge necessary to understand later ideas and bodies of knowledge. This provides us with an additional 4 periods a week of English language intervention where we focus on high-frequency word recognition (to fluency) and Rosetta Stone to build basic conversational language.
  • Intensive English language and high frequency word programme to allow for rapid language acquisition.
  • Rosetta Stone and P7 high-frequency word intervention
  • Data-led seating plans
  • Intentional Monitoring and live feedback
  • Targeted questioning and CFU
  • In Key Stage 4 – in response to high numbers (>20) of in-year admissions from abroad we reduce the curriculum entitlement for this group so that they only study 7 courses – this provides us with an additional 6 periods a week for English and Maths support.

  1. Fortnightly CLM review meetings
  2. QA cycle
  3. Book scrutiny
  4. DE
  5. Exams analysis

Students with high prior attainment

  • Book choices through morning reading
  • Targeted stretch it questioning
  • Graduated Steps to Success
  • Challenging curriculum end points
  • Independent academic subject reading for homework from 4/1/22 onwards.
  1. Fortnightly CLM review meetings
  2. QA cycle
  3. Book scrutiny
  4. DE
  5. Exams analysis

As set out in our curriculum vision, we are ambitious for all students to succeed at university or a real alternative and to that end we are unapologetic in what we expect from every student. In order to achieve this vision we have put in place a systematic approach to ensuring all students can access the full curriculum.