“I love being a Campus Ambassador – it’s helped my confidence and I’ve developed new skills.”

By | Blog

 I’m Jess and I’m a Campus Ambassador for Ark Teacher Training at the University of Sheffield. I’m in my third year at university and am studying English Literature.

I was first attracted to the role as I liked Ark’s mission as an educational charity. The role was really flexible and allowed me to fit in work around my busy timetable. I’m interested in getting into teaching after university, so thought it would be a great way for me to find out more and spread the word on campus about Ark!

The role itself is really varied. From organising and facilitating events to promote the programme, to helping people with their applications and answering any questions they might have. One of the biggest parts of the role is promoting the Ark Teacher Training brand on campus, I do this through flyers, social media and chatting to people about the programme and Ark schools.

I’ve loved organising the events to promote Ark Teacher Training. My highlight has been the Spoken Word evening I ran in association with the university’s Poetry Society. We even had a performance from Mark Grist, former English teacher turned poet. The event had a good turnout and everyone had a great night! The evening was themed around teaching and provided a unique and interesting way for people to find out more about teacher training.

Being a Campus Ambassador has really helped me with my organisation and management skills. Being in charge of my own events has been exciting and empowering. The role has also helped to build my confidence. By presenting and engaging with people at careers fairs, I’ve improved my public speaking and presentation skills and now feel really confident talking to new people!

I love being a Campus Ambassador and would definitely recommend it. It’s been really flexible and fits in around my studies and extra-curricular activities. I’ve also enjoyed learning more about teaching and the great work Ark does.

Want to join Jess? Apply now to become a Campus Ambassador for 2017/18.

A day in the life of a trainee teacher

By | Blog, Our Trainees

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a trainee teacher? Bryony, a trainee history teacher at Ark Helenswood Academy in Hastings, talks us through her typical school day. Bryony moved to Hastings from London in September 2016 to start her training with Ark Teacher Training.

My morning routine

I usually get up at 5.45am. It is early, but it means I have time to exercise, I like to walk down to the old town and back, get ready for work and plan some lessons – all before 8am! My commute is so easy now, it’s just a 10-minute drive to school. That’s one of the great things about living in Hastings. As well as going from having a tiny bedroom in a shared flat, to having my own one-bed flat with a garden!

9.00 – 10.15am: A coaching session with my line manager

I teach between 11 and 13 hours a week, so not a full timetable, which gives me time for coaching, training and co-planning.

I’ve got a free period this morning and I’m having a coaching session with my line manager. We’re going through the great teacher rubric (a teacher development framework designed to allow teachers to measure their own professional development against precise and measurable standards at every stage of their career) and seeing where I want to target my efforts in the coming week.

This week I’m going to focus on communicating with teaching assistants, to make sure that we’re hitting the learning objectives for students who need a bit of extra support. It’s so handy to get small, achievable targets that I can work on and review the next week – it really helps me to progress.

Some mornings we’ll also do co-planning together. My lessons usually involve an interactive task and some independent practice. They can be quite tricky to design as a trainee, so it’s really useful to work on it with a history specialist who can help me come up with a solution or give me some advice.

10.15 – 11.30am: Studying the British Empire with my year 8 students

This morning I’ve got one of my year 8 classes. At the moment we’re studying the British Empire. My students at Ark Helenswood are great, they’re really engaged and they’ve always got their own opinions – they love debates! 

One of my favourite things about teaching history is seeing the students make a link to modern day. For example, when studying the causes of WWI, they started making links to the fighting in Syria at the moment. It’s great teaching history in Hastings, because so much of what shaped the identity of our country happened on our doorsteps. It’s exciting to be able to share that with my students.

Afternoon: Travelling to London for my weekly training

One afternoon per week I head up to London with the other trainees for a session with Ark Teacher Training. It’s a fairly quick journey, less than two hours door-to-door and I can always catch up on some marking on the train.

The sessions vary from week to week. Sometimes we’ll have whole cohort training – it can be subject specific where we’ll focus on the history curriculum. And at other times we’ll be in our tutor groups. My tutor, Michael, is brilliant, he’s incredibly supportive and has got so much experience.

This week we’re having a whole cohort training session. We’re looking at the most effective assessment methods to gauge whether students have learnt something or not. It’s particularly helpful for me, because it has resolved a problem I’d been having with teaching my year 7s about source analysis.

The sessions are always very practical. We’ll have a group discussion so we can share our own experiences and then we’ll usually practise a technique in pairs. It’s one of the most useful tools for improving my teaching. I can actually practise a new concept, maybe a behaviour management technique or a way of introducing a new skill, see what problems may occur and fix them before I even get in the classroom. It means that I’m having a greater impact on the students and making my teaching the best that it can be.

My evenings in Hastings

When the weather was warmer, I’d spend my evenings on the beach! But tonight I’ll head out to a new seafood restaurant with Sophie, one of the other trainees here at Ark Helenswood. There are so many nice restaurants in Hastings, it has a real foodie culture, there are always new pop-up cafés and bars opening up.

There is lots to do at the weekends as well. There’s a festival or big event every couple of weeks. There’s a big music culture in the town, and a selection of bands play every weekend.

Moving to Hastings and training to teach is the best decision I have ever made, both for my career and for myself. Ark Teacher Training is outstanding – the programme is so well put together and the tutors have so much experience. I’ve got a brilliant way of life down here in Hastings. I can afford to do more things and it’s such a beautiful place to live. I can definitely see myself being here for quite a few years.

Want to find out more about our schools in Hastings or training to teach with Ark? Get in touch

7 reasons to train with Ark

By | Blog

1. Our schools make a real difference.

Ark is an education charity that believes every child should have the chance to go to university or on to the career of their choice. All of our schools are in areas of economic deprivation or historic underachievement.

Our schools are guided by our six pillars in how to make a difference in young people’s lives. And our approach is working – our schools and teachers have achieved some incredible results – including King Solomon Academy, which despite being in the poorest ward in London, is one of the best state schools in the country. 

Research shows that out of all the major school groups, Ark makes the biggest difference in transforming the lives of disadvantaged school children.

2. We know how important your training really is.

The training really sets us apart from other providers. With the School Direct approach you’re in the classroom from 85-outstandingday one, but we won’t drop you in the deep end.

  • You’ll receive 500 hours of face-to-face training
  • Weekly sessions with your fellow trainees
  • 120 hours team teaching with a great teacher
  • 66 lesson observations with feedback on your practice
  • 190 school days to put your learning into action
  • Three short placements in different schools
  • An in-school coach and an Ark Teacher Training tutor to give you feedback

And it works. 85% of our recent trainees were graded ‘outstanding’ and 100% of our graduates succeed in securing teaching roles.

Ark Teacher Training was recently rated as ‘outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted, stating that the programme offered “exceptionally tailored coaching and training… of the very highest standard”.

3. We want you to stay in teaching – so we offer great career development.

We’ve put a lot of thought into your long-term development. Following your first year of training, you’ll join our NQT programme – a high-quality development programme which will support you during your second year of the programme, so you can continue to improve.tom-ding

Then there’s our unrivalled level of support for middle leaders, senior leaders and even headteachers.

Some of this may seem a long way off, but you can rest assured you’re in the right place for your development, whatever the stage of your career.

4. You won’t be bored. Ever. 

We know that an excellent education means more than just great exam results. It means building pupils’ confidence and character – helping them to be ready for the world. We encourage pupils from different Ark schools to come together and enjoy a whole range of enrichment events, and that means opportunities for teachers to participate as well. “Every day is different filled with challenges, exciting opportunities and amazing rewards,” says Ark Helenswood Academy teacher Charlotte Ward.

We have debating contests, sports days, maths ‘wrangles’ and more. It all culminates in the Ark Music Gala, a huge event held at a world famous venue where dozens of schools and hundreds of students perform pieces ranging from Adele to Beethoven. See it for yourself:

5. We’re a network, which means choice, support and opportunity.

You get to choose what school you want to work in. We work with schools across the country in Birmingham, Hastings, London and Portsmouth. Being part of a network means a large number of career choices and opportunities to learn from others.

Programmes that are linked with Ark Teacher Training include:

  • Mathematics Mastery – an innovative teaching framework supporting schools, teachers and students to be successful at maths.
  • Ambition School Leadership – providing headteacher and school leadership development for middle and senior leaders. 
  • Frontline – transforming the lives of vulnerable children by recruiting and developing outstanding individuals to be leaders in social work and broader society.

6. We’re international.

In addition to operating schools in the UK, we also work internationally, through Ark’s Education Partnerships Group, supporting governments across the globe to create the environment for their schools to flourish.

Something for our new teachers to aspire to is The Ark Global Teaching Fellowship, where middle leaders have the chance to work in our international schools or partners for a two-week, expenses-paid placement.

7. Last but not least: it’s all about the kids.

Don’t just take our word for it, hear from some of our students…

Apply now to become a great teacher. 

Could you pass your GCSEs now?

By | Blog

Think GCSEs are easy? Let’s put it to the test.

How long ago did you take your GCSEs? Just a few years ago or do they seem like a distant memory?

Do you think you’d be able to pass them now?

Take our short, cross-curricular quiz to see what grades you would get!

Did you know – students who start secondary school below expected levels are twice as likely to achieve 5 A* – Cs at GCSE in an Ark school. Find out how you can join us in transforming lives through education. 



Our 2017 new trainee cheese and wine evening!

By | Blog, Our Trainees

On Tuesday 24th May, Ark Teacher Training held its very first event for the 2017 cohort of trainees; a cheese and wine evening!

40 soon-to-be trainee teachers attended the event excited to sample our delicious spread of cheeses and, of course, meet their classmates and new tutors and find out what to expect over the next year on the Ark Teacher Training programme.

After we had plied them with an array of cheeses and an ample supply of wine, our trainees were introduced to the people they will brie (sorry!) in regular contact with throughout their training year: our Ark tutors and curriculum managers.

Keen to make sure they had plenty to get started on over the summer, we gave our trainees a reading list to focus on before September along with a detailed description of what to expect at their School Orientation Experience. This is the induction week completed by all our trainees at their new school before the end of the summer term. It allows our trainees to meet key staff they’ll be working with, observe some great teaching in lessons throughout the week and help them to get to know the building so they won’t get lost on their first day! This week is also a great opportunity for trainees to start reflecting on the teaching they’re seeing and how this can influence and structure their own classroom practice.

Our Ark Teacher Training team didn’t do all the talking; attendees were thrown in at the deep end with a mini training session! Trainees had the opportunity to practice a technique they’ll need on the first day in the classroom. This practical and interactive session was carried out in the style of our training sessions as a taster of what’s to come. It gave trainees the opportunity to work with each other for the first time, as well as to give and receive feedback about the activity.

All trainees were asked to write a postcard explaining why they wanted to begin a career as a teacher. The responses were incredibly varied, from “to make an impact and a difference, but to also learn to become the best version of myself” to “to make a valuable contribution to my community and address imbalances in society.” We can’t wait to see the fantastic teachers our trainees will make over the coming year!

Everyone had a great evening with trainees now excited for the new term and raring to get into the classroom. It was also a great networking opportunity for trainees to meet their new colleagues and build meaningful friendships to support them through their training year, and hopefully a lifetime, as one attendee fed back to us: “A big thank you for putting on such a fantastic networking event! I’ve made so many contacts and exchanged numbers with lots of people, and we are planning to keep in touch in the lead up to summer school!”

Knowing how to sell a story is close to knowing how to sell a lesson.

By | Blog

I was a journalist for about 20 years, training on daily local papers before working in Parliament for the Birmingham Post, general news for The Independent, then travelling around Africa, going into reporting on the travel business, and becoming deputy editor of Which? Travel.

I’d been thinking about teaching for several years, and started volunteering one day a week in a primary school to find out more about the reality of it. I found I was enjoying my teaching days more than my full time job so decided to apply to school direct. The availability of the salaried route made the change possible because otherwise it wouldn’t have added up financially.

Transferrable Skills

Knowing how to sell a story is close to knowing how to sell a lesson, the writing skills translate directly to English, and the you need tact, patience and intuition to interview people as a journalist, which come in useful when you dealing with emotional issues in a primary school.

What surprised me was that returning to student work has been fine, but it is challenging moving into a totally new area of work. You need to relearn almost everything you think you know! It is useful having the Ark network behind you because there are other trainees on the course who have also changed careers, so you don’t feel isolated.

My advice to those considering changing careers to teach, would be to absolutely follow your instincts and give it a try. My first four months have been incredibly rewarding and I’m convinced it was the right decision. If possible, do some volunteering and get as much experience in the classroom as you can first.

From Top Ten singles to Year 1 pupils

By | Blog

Before starting her career as a primary teacher, Newly-Qualified Teacher Sian Charlesworth was a member of pop group Parade. Here Sian, who teaches at Ark Bentworth Primary Academy, talks about going from Top Ten singles to Year 1 pupils.

I’d always had a real passion for performing, so I studied Drama at Leeds University. During my summer break, I saw an advert in The Stage magazine looking for performers. I auditioned, was accepted and was signed to a record label as part of a band.

The next couple of years were a whirlwind of touring around the UK and internationally, as well as releasing a single that made it into the UK Top Ten – sometimes I look back on it and almost can’t believe it really happened to me.

It was an amazing experience: I remember when we heard our song on the radio for the first time and going into the Radio 1 studio to find our chart position and being met by screaming fans.

When the band broke up, I realised I wanted something that was a little more secure, but also something where I was able to make a difference. I joined a company which ran theatre sessions in schools and realised I really loved teaching. I have a natural childlike energy and the kids always make me laugh. I’m the kind of person who can get bored in a job quite easily, but every day is different as a teacher, so that never happens.

I was placed at Ark Bentworth Primary Academy and they suggested I apply for Ark Teacher Training. Having been through the programme, I’d recommend it to anyone; by the end of the course, you feel totally equipped to teach, you have the strategies you need and you understand the intellectual aspects of teaching.

For me, putting together a class is a little like putting together a show and being at the front of the class is like being on stage. My job means keeping an audience’s attention and using the dynamics of my voice. Even the teaching resources are used in a similar way to how a performer uses props.

One of the other things I like about teaching is that you can always see the impact of your work. As a performer, you can work as hard as humanly possible and still not get the results you want, because there are so many factors beyond your control that determine your success; as a teacher, the more you put in, the greater an impact you see on your students.

I gave up a glamorous advertising career to teach stroppy teenagers – and have no regrets

By | Blog

I’d always thought about becoming a teacher, but I didn’t do it straight away. I went into advertising and marketing, but realised I wanted a job built on human interaction rather than PowerPoint presentations, and one that would allow me to make a difference to other people’s lives.

There was an intellectual challenge and a certain glamour to advertising – all long lunches and fancy bars – but after a while I realised that there wasn’t much to love beneath the glitter. I began to find it very difficult to motivate myself and this was when I knew I had to do something different.

I believe all young people should get the chance to make their own choices and to pursue a life that they find fulfilling and meaningful. The role of a teacher is to prepare children for that, helping them to gain the qualifications and develop the habits that they will need if they are to dictate their own future.

Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, so many young people in this country never get this opportunity, and I find that devastating. The whole game is rigged against them.

My previous career was actually very good training for teaching: I had to do a lot of presentations, which helped me have the confidence to stand in front of a class. There was also a focus on clarity of communication, which is a vital skill for teachers. Generally speaking, though, the scale of the challenge eclipses anything I have done previously.

I was looking for the route into teaching that would give me the best training possible. Initially I wasn’t sure what the best route for me would be, but as I found out more about School Direct and Ark Teacher Training, I made up my mind. I’m very happy I did because now, I can’t imagine a better way to train.

As a career-changer, I was very conscious about spending too much time training out of the classroom. I wanted a route that would enable me to pick up the skills of teaching as quickly as possible. On the flip-side, I was also nervous about being dropped into a tough school with very little support.

However, as soon as I started I realised this route is the best of both worlds. I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon Ark Teacher Training. I can’t imagine a better balance of training and first-hand experience, and the relentless high standards are offset by an incredibly supportive environment. All in all, I’m constantly challenged, which makes me feel I’m progressing about as fast as I can manage.

The advice I’d give to anyone looking to change careers to teaching: do it. I gave up a ‘high-powered’ city job for stroppy teenagers, but I haven’t regretted it once. The workload is high and the pace frenetic, but every day brings at least one moment to cherish. And that’s not something I could say about any job I’ve had before.

My experience in the police has given me a lot of transferrable skills

By | Blog

I studied Psychology at university and started off specialising in child psychology before becoming interested in criminal psychology. I became really interested in the point at which something could go wrong psychologically – the impact of a painful childhood experience, for example – and that’s something that has stayed with me as an interest and a motivation throughout my career.

After university, I joined Sussex Police as part of a fast-track scheme. As a graduate, I was ambitious, so one of the things that appealed to me about the police was that it promised fast promotion to high performers.

I was in the force for nearly ten years and I loved it, even though I was dealing with people at their very worst – people who had experienced something shocking, had done something illegal or were at risk of offending.

I worked as a detective sergeant, which meant that I had to manage a team of first responders to secure crime scenes, ensure that evidence was kept intact and that everyone on the job was objective about the case.

After nearly ten years in the police, I began to realise that what I really wanted was to help people to have positive experiences in their lives and find a way to have a positive impact early on. I had been training other police forces in how to use profiling techniques and liked being in the classroom environment.  I also knew that my greatest rewards came from working with young people.

Being in the police meant that I was trying to help people achieve justice after something awful had happened, rather than preventing that awful thing from happening in the first place. I wanted to be in a career where I could make a difference before things went wrong, rather than just pick up the pieces afterwards.

I was hard to be a the start of a new career again, but, within three years, I was a phase leader and six years later, I was a headteacher.

I think the same ambition that had led me to the police drove me to succeed in schools. Even in the police, I wasn’t happy doing one thing for more than two or three years, so I’d move to different teams on a regular basis. Teaching has proven to be really great for someone who always wants a new challenge.

My experience in the police has actually given me a lot of transferrable skills as a teacher and school leader – I know how to support parents who are upset about things at the school, and I know how to project authority in the classroom and manage a class of children or a large staff team. It’s also meant that I have really good resilience and coping mechanisms for stress. My psychology degree means I understand when things can go wrong in a child’s development, and I can make positive changes to help them through it.

Addressing the real challenges that teachers face: a Q&A with Doug Lemov

By | Blog

Since it was first published in 2010, Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion has become one of the ‘must-read’ texts for teachers looking to improve their technique and realise their students’ full potential. Recently, Doug and his colleagues from Uncommon Schools, a network of high-performing schools in the United States, ran intensive workshops at Ark All Saints for teachers, including those in the Ark network. We caught up with Doug to ask for his top tips for new teachers.

What do you think is the most common problem new teachers run into?

The easy answer is that they’re often not prepared for the challenges of building positive classroom culture. Teaching is hugely complex and there are innumerable challenges involved, but these are often predictable challenges and there are solutions. We talk about these being endemic problems, they’re totally predictable – you know you’re going to face in kids who have no interest in learning, or pretend they have no interest in learning, or think they have no interest in learning because no-one’s ever reached them. It’s a disservice to the smart people who come into the profession to make a difference to send them into the classroom with no idea how to solve those problems.

Do you think traditional teacher training programmes are well-suited to prepare teachers for those issues?

I wouldn’t want to generalise, especially on the British system of teaching, because I’m not an expert on it. Generally speaking, teacher training in the US focuses too much on theory and abstraction and not enough on tangible actions in the classroom. I understand why they do that: they want to make teaching feel important but it’s so important to be a craftsperson as a teacher. In some ways, the question of whether teaching preparation prepares teachers isn’t important – what matters is “could it be better?”

Why do you think your writing has had such an impact in the UK?

Because I think teaching is really hard work and a lot of really excellent people do it because they want to make a difference. They don’t just want to go to work and punch the clock, they want to be good at it, but there are all these endemic problems that plague them and there’s kind of a deficit of solutions out there, there’s a deficit of conversations about the solutions. So, I think that the degree to which my work has relevance is because it addresses the real challenges that teachers face.

You’ve previously said that you looked at how teachers were adapting your methods in Teach Like a Champion when revising the book for its second edition. Why was that process so important for you?

Implicit in the work for me is the idea that teachers should contribute to the intellectual foundation of the teaching field, it shouldn’t just be a field where people who are non-teachers are telling teachers what teaching should be and what teachers should to do. It’s a profession full of brilliant people who have brilliant solutions and I think we should be studying teachers to find solutions to teaching challenges.

What are some of the most common questions new teachers ask you?

It’s hard to generalise, there are so many questions. I think one common question that gets asked is about teacher fallibility, which is essentially: “I’m not able to use these methods all the time, is that OK?” The answer that I give from that comes from being a parent: I wish that I could get it just right all the time when interacting with my kids, but I can’t. It’s nice to remind people that the goal is not to be infallible, that the goal is to do as well you can, as intentionally as you can, with as many interactions as you can in the course of your day. One of the best things that teacher training can do is get people to be very, very good at what they’re already good at, because that’s what makes great teachers.

You’ve worked closely with Ark with its continuing professional development for a number of years. What’s your impression of the Ark Teacher Training programme?

I think it’s wonderful, I think it’s really high-quality. Even just the culture that Ark’s teachers bring to a training workshop like this, where there’s such a respect for the work of teaching, an interest and passion for the craft of teaching. Ark is an organisation that is completely about teaching and what happens inside the classroom. The enthusiasm, the rigour and the intellectual culture of Ark is unmistakable and it makes it a pleasure to work with Ark teachers. Ark is a place where I would recommend working because they are going to be serious about making you better and honouring your work by making you successful at it for the rest of your life.