Vision and values
We will provide an exceptional education on foundations that ensure sustainable excellence benefitting young people and the local community for generations.
Ark Acton Academy is being built on six pillars that are derived from Ark’s Pillars. These pillars are the foundation of an excellent education, developing confident, articulate and culturally aware young adults. The pillars will support all that we do from setting our long term vision to driving day to day decision making. They will be present in all aspects of our practice and at all levels of our organisation.
Calm, purpose and order will be established through consistency of expectations and explicit teaching of discipline.
Strong discipline will be at the heart of our school, providing the calm and focussed environment that allows pupils to learn, show and receive respect and develop the behaviours that will enable them to play a full role in society. The school must be orderly and all transitions managed carefully to maximise time for learning. The routines are to be completely consistent across every member of staff and implemented in a kind, respectful and nurturing manner. Many of our classroom routines will be communicated with non-verbal signals, meaning teacher talk can remain focussed on learning. Pupils will be taught self-discipline. We will explain our expectations very clearly, why they are important and then we will expect 100% compliance at all times. As a result, the pupils will understand how the routines will help to create an excellent school. They will also understand how the development of their self-discipline, alongside character development, will help them in the future. Ark Acton’s new behaviour systems are designed to support pupils to reflect upon and learn from their mistakes and develop their ability to make good decisions.
Our curriculum design will enable pupils to develop a framework of knowledge and understanding in each subject area that provides a solid foundation for further study.
Our curriculum will be planned backwards from university in each subject area, ensuring pupils master key learning before moving on. It will be a knowledge rich curriculum where what pupils are learning about is as important as the skills they are developing. More time for English and maths will ensure that pupils develop literacy and numeracy skills to a very high level. Assessments will test mastery of the content by requiring pupils to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and application independently and in unseen contexts. Exam weeks will be held three times a year. End of year exams will test mastery of the whole year’s learning. Revision will be built into the curriculum because new problems are designed to draw upon and utilise prior learning. The focus on developing depth of understanding and mastery means that pupils will experience the deep satisfaction derived from grappling with and grasping challenging content, which in turn supports the development of a growth mindset. It also means that they will be developing a solid framework of understanding and set of skills that support all future learning in that subject area. The rigour of the curriculum will be reflected in the curriculum planning documents, high quality teaching, pupil work and the feedback that pupils receive.
High Quality Teaching
Teachers will be subject experts with an excellent understanding of the intellectual journey they are taking their pupils on and they will master the teaching skills to support this.
Teachers will use the school routines to create an excellent climate for learning and to ensure that pupils make exceptional progress. Lessons will never be task driven; they will be planned using the most effective methods to engage with the content. They will be underpinned by high expectations, from the use of academic language, grammatical precision and level of rigour expected in pupil responses, to the great thinkers and scholars they introduce the pupils to along the way. The atmosphere will be scholarly and teachers will display and elicit a passion for their subject and for learning more generally. Our teachers will have excellent subject knowledge and their understanding of the curriculum will be detailed, meaning that they will recognise how the learning fits into the pupils’ broader development within the subject. They will engage with the knowledge being developed and understand the crux of the lesson. This will allow them to be very responsive in the classroom, always able to ask the most important questions, pick out the most important points, identify the underlying misconceptions that are holding pupils back and give meaningful feedback that moves pupils forward. Our teachers will ensure all pupils master the key concepts and skills required for each unit before moving on. Errors will be seen as opportunities and emphasis will be placed on growth rather than attainment. We will notice and celebrate both day to day and more significant successes. All classrooms and all teaching will be a team effort, with each individual practitioner delivering planning that is the result of a collaborative process and developing facilitation skills that are part of our collective approach as a school.
Character Development and Key Learning Dispositions
Pupils will develop characteristics that support their academic achievement, create thoughtful citizens and allow them to make reflective choices over their personal lives.
We will teach Character Education formally, translating abstract personal attributes into concrete situations. Pupils will study character through sessions that always end in a structured discussion led by pupils. The programme will cover personal, moral and global topics. We will provide opportunities to develop and reinforce these attributes beyond these sessions as they provide the framework in which we understand personal development and the language to discuss it. Pupils’ curiosity and adaptability will mean they are outward looking and able to get the most from and seek out experiences and opportunities. Their honesty, altruism, and empathy will give them an integrity that means they can stick to their convictions and form strong personal relationships. Their responsibility and reflectiveness will help them to make good choices for themselves and for others. Tenacity will underpin their character and ensure that they work hard and see their choices through.
Alongside these attributes, pupils will develop Key Learning Dispositions. These are learning habits that allow pupils to make the most of the excellent teaching they will receive at Ark Acton and will enable them to engage in study at the highest level. They will be able to organise themselves, take notes, listen, discuss and debate, conduct research, give presentations, manage extended projects and write at length. Ultimately, our pupils will carve out their own futures; they must have the skills to thrive in whatever environment they choose and the self-awareness to make choices that will make them happy and be fulfilled.
Raising Aspirations and Enrichment
Pupils will understand the opportunities that a school and university education will afford them in terms of careers and quality of life. Pupils will develop their passions and interests through a high quality enrichment programme.
The aim of raising aspirations will permeate the school. Teachers will use interactions with pupils, through lessons, tutoring and informal discussions to introduce and discuss aspirational role models, current affairs, further study, university and careers. We will take every opportunity to continually support pupils to think more deeply and more broadly about the world around them and the opportunities it presents. As a school we will be knowledgeable about careers and seek advice where we do not have the expertise. Each term, a speaker will visit to give pupils an insight into their career; each year pupils will visit a university. As they get older, these university visits are increasingly tailored to their individual aspirations. As a result, they will have an excellent understanding of a variety of careers and understand what qualifications, skills and experiences they would need in order to pursue them. They will understand the role of university in providing opportunities and they will be well informed about universities that provide the most valued degrees in the subject areas they wish to pursue. Pupils will recognise how their learning, character and personal development will support their future prospects; they will reflect on their character and interests when making choices about their futures. Their broad experience of visiting universities, the opportunity to meet people from a range of sectors and the development of their communication skills through character will mean that they will be able to express themselves articulately and confidently in any forum. Alongside the breadth of career and educational opportunities they come into contact with, we will also support our pupils to develop their passions and interests through a wide ranging enrichment programme.
Developing Educational Leaders
All members of staff will see themselves as leaders within an aligned community of professionals and will be systematically trained in best practice.
Training and development will be part of daily life at Ark Acton. There will be three strands to this. First and foremost, we will all be excellent teachers. Our teaching practice will be developed through weekly coaching and weekly collaborative planning meetings. All teachers will be leaders. They will be supported to engage in evaluative, data-driven and strategic thinking related to their role. We will return regularly to the pillars and their day to day manifestations to ensure that everyone feels that they are the guardians of them and are empowered to make decisions based on them. We explain the philosophy behind whole school decisions and conduct regular Many Minds sessions, where all staff will work together on a whole school priority. As a result, all members of our team have a greater insight into the whole organisation, are able to articulate the vision of the school and will apply this to their day to day practice. Thirdly, when teachers take on leadership positions within the school, their development follows the same principles. They will have a weekly link that includes: observation and feedback on delivering training, coaching others, leading collaborative planning and other meetings; feedback on their strategic planning and evaluation; opportunities to co-plan, discuss key aspects of their role and conduct joint monitoring activities. We will also run training sessions which cover the key aspects of school leadership. This weekly coaching programme will be planned to fit into the school calendar, which ensures support is timely and practical. Our alumni will be exceptional teachers, thoughtful and strategic managers and visionary leaders that will be able to make an important contribution to education.
We will be relentlessly focussed on our pillars and will organise our time effectively to ensure we can implement them fully in all aspects of our school.
We will work within a climate of professionalism and respect. We will be committed to our shared vision and know that the successful implementation of this means we must be a school where everyone has time to do their job well, where there is an open dialogue about workload and organisation and where there is support to prioritise. We know that time is precious and we will use it strategically. We will give deadlines a term in advance so we can plan our work, we will allocate time for planning and reviewing so that it can become a considered and high leverage part of our annual cycle. Our school calendar will be organised to facilitate collaborations, from weekly collaborative planning meetings to analysis days and Many Minds sessions so that we are working effectively as a team.
We will build a school to provide local young people with a first class education for generations to come. Therefore we must build a sustainable school. This is not a school that relies on the brilliance of a few but develops brilliance in all staff. We will be a school that is consistent and we know that it is only as part of the collective that we can achieve our ambitious aims. We will work together to develop the best approach to achieving our aims, codify good practice and ensure it is fully embedded across the whole school.