Our Trainees

“A child’s insight into the world and the wisdom they have surprises me everyday.”

By | Our Trainees

Current Ark Teacher Training trainee Rachael traded in her freelance career to retrain as a primary teacher in West London. Here she talks about her decision to teach, the highs, the lows and how ultimately it’s all worth while. 

This time last year I was working from my family home in north-west England, illustrating e-learning courses for a local NHS training project and volunteering in my local community. It was also around this time that I started filling out my application for Ark Teacher Training. Now, I’ve moved to London and am teaching year one at Ark Byron Primary Academy.

I studied Theology at the University of Exeter and become a freelance illustrator after I graduated. I’ve grown up volunteering in a variety of organisations, predominantly focused on improving the lives of young people, so a transition into teaching made sense to me.

Teaching is such a privilege; you are a key influence in the lives of children. I was fortunate enough to have an upbringing which gave me the foundation of ambition, self-confidence and curiosity. I wanted to be able to give that to others and teaching felt like the perfect way to do that.

The School Direct route suited me; not only did it bring the financial benefits of providing me with a salary, but I also like the routine of working full-time.  It also makes me a better teacher – I’m able to put theory into practice every day. I can immediately try out everything I’ve been taught in a classroom setting.

I’m lucky, there’s so much I’ve been able to bring into the classroom from my previous roles. As well as experience volunteering with young people, my time-management and creative skills have been particularly beneficial. I felt better equipped to balance the broad range of demands placed upon me from both training and teaching. I’ve also been able to use my creativity to plan exciting lessons, create interesting displays and come up with different ways to engage the children in learning.

Balancing my time between training, planning and teaching can feel a little overwhelming. The course is rigorous, but putting the work in is worth the outcome. There is nothing more satisfying than successfully teaching a lesson you’ve planned using all the skills and techniques you have been practising and preparing for.

My advice to anyone considering a career in teaching? It can seem a little scary, especially when people are always telling you what a tough job it is, but it is thoroughly worth it. I’ve been incredibly supported throughout the process and everyone at Ark Teacher Training and in my school has helped me to manage a work-life balance.

Children are great – don’t ever lose sight of why you want to teach. I had a particularly challenging student in my Phonics class last term. I spent a lot of time and energy getting to know this child, putting behaviour management techniques in place, trying to minimise disruption, but it was tough. On the last day of term I was leaving early for a training session, this student broke down crying. I went over to check everything was ok and they replied “‘You’ve learnt enough already Miss Gillies, I don’t want you to go!” In that moment all the hard work was worth it, especially when I discovered they had progressed three levels in their Phonics.

Seeing and working with the children every day reminds me, particularly at challenging points, why I am doing what I am doing.

Want to join Rachael in transforming lives in the classroom? Find out how you can apply to train to teach with Ark

Rachel left the army to retrain as a primary teacher – Read her journey so far

By | Our Trainees

Like many of my peers on the Ark Teacher Training programme, before starting at Ark Swift Primary Academy in September, I had no classroom experience. Prior to starting my teacher training I had been an officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps for six years. This was a job that I had loved almost every moment of, so when the time came to move on, like any good officer, I sat down to analyse the parts of the job that I wanted to take forward into my new career. Essentially it boiled down to three things; working with people every day, leadership, and a having a career with a strong sense of purpose. Clearly all three are captured within being a teacher, but it is the final point, the sense of purpose, that made Ark really stand out to me. I have no doubt, thinking about the children in our classroom, that if we do our jobs to the best of our ability then will change what the future has to offer them.

Being in the classroom from day one has meant that I have been able to develop a deep understanding of each of my pupil’s individual (and often hilarious) personalities. I have seen the amazing amount of progress that children have made throughout the term. One child, having gone from being unable to read basic three letter words, now sits firmly in the middle of her peer group. As a result her confidence in all areas of school life has visibly grown, which is heart-warming to see.

One of the best aspects of training with Ark is the relationship that you build with your classroom coach. Being with them daily means that you receive a wealth of informal coaching and feedback and get to tackle errors or misconceptions far earlier than you otherwise might. One important lesson I learnt – never ask a child to pass you what they were playing with, it might just end up being a small, green, bogey!

Rachel - primary trainee

Rachel speaking about her experience to potential trainees


There have been some challenging times over the last term. As a career changer I think the most difficult thing to come to terms with is the fact that I was used to operating in an environment where I had achieved a certain level of confidence and now find myself firmly back in the novice category. Preaching to the children about errors being a part of learning has been something that I’ve also had to take on board myself.


Despite any testing times, there has genuinely not been a moment where I have questioned my decision to transfer into teaching. This ultimately comes back to the sense of purpose that comes from working with a group of like-minded individuals who are truly invested in the outcomes of our children. When you are feeling a little tired first thing on a Monday morning and you see your pupils come racing across the playground, trying to be the first one in, raring to go, you can’t help but smile and look forward to the day ahead.

Inspired by Rachel’s story? Find out how you can join us in transforming lives through education. 

“There’s an emphasis on training and support throughout the programme” – Mike #ATTclassof2018

By | Our Trainees

I originally started teaching English as a foreign language. I taught primary-aged students overseas in a number of countries, including Spain and Brazil.

I took my TEFL qualification when I finished university as I wanted to travel and this seemed like a good way to do it. I ended up finding I really enjoyed teaching and wanted to do my PGCE and get the qualifications.

I chose Ark Teacher Training because I really liked the structure of the programme. It seemed very professional and was led by experts. There is a clear emphasis on training and support throughout the two-year programme. I knew I’d be supported and not just thrown into the classroom!

Summer school provided us with lots of information and all of it was really useful. The simple things were the most interesting and beneficial for me, such as how to plan a lesson. It was all broken down into easy steps and wasn’t intimidating at all.

I’ll be teaching at Ark Chamberlain Primary Academy in Birmingham and I got to visit the school last term as part of the school orientation offered by Ark Teacher Training. It was really helpful to see the school in action and meet everyone I’d be working with.

I already have experience in a classroom from my EFL teaching, but now I’m excited to get in my new classroom and build on my existing experience.


“I felt inspired at school, now I want to inspire others” – Tom #ATTclassof2018

By | Our Trainees

I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher. Mainly for three reasons:

  1. I loved my geography teacher at school. He inspired me and I wanted to be like him.
  2. I want to do a job where I can make a difference in people’s lives.
  3. I didn’t want an office job. I wanted to be excited by my role. I wanted something fulfilling where every day was different.

I decided to go straight into my teacher training after graduating this summer because I knew what I wanted to do and was just keen get out there and get on with it! I knew I wanted to teach, so why wait?

I was lucky enough to get some school experience whilst I was still at university. I started regularly volunteering at my local school during my free periods and got to know the school and the students. I also attended an Insight Day organised by Ark Teacher Training at Ark Globe Academy in south London.

When I was at Globe, I saw first-hand the unparalleled support offered by both the school and Ark Teacher Training. What I really liked about Ark Teacher Training was the opportunity to learn from so many experts. You’re able to get feedback from at least four different great teachers on a regular basis and that will make you a better teacher, and quickly.

Summer school was a great opportunity to start to understand how everything links together. The subject specific sessions have been really helpful as well. I’m not too far removed from my subject having studied it at university, but it was a handy reminder.

I am looking forward to my first day and just seeing how it will go. I know not everyone day will go well, but I’m prepared for the challenge to try again the next day. I’m hoping to make my students love geography as much as I do and am really ready to get started now.

“I used to be in awe of the teachers at my school, now I know I can do this” – Ben #ATTclassof2018

By | Our Trainees

I had a crisis around my 25th birthday. I was working in sales and wasn’t getting any job satisfaction. I wanted to do something worthwhile and working with young people seemed like a natural choice.

I’ve been working at Ark Putney Academy as a Teaching Assistant for a year. When I decided I wanted to work with young people, I approached Putney because it was my old school! I still knew some of the teachers and it was a setting I could relate to, it helped that I could picture myself in that school environment.

Being a TA at Putney has been great. I’ve been offered so much support and was always made to feel part of the team. When I first started, I was in awe of the teachers, but then as the year progressed I started to see the value I could add and began to think “I could do this.”

As soon as I started thinking about training to teach, it seemed like the most obvious thing in the world. It was a natural progression from what I’d already been doing and everyone at my school was really encouraging.

I’ve felt a lot of support throughout the process. The training programme with Ark sounded great and it was very clear. I knew exactly what the route would be and what it would look like.

I’m looking forward to putting what I learnt at summer school into practice. Prior to starting my training, I would just imitate what other teachers did, now I already have a better understanding of the theory behind teaching. There’s no doubt it was incredibly helpful having been a TA for a year, but summer school has been a great crash course, I feel like I’ve learnt everything I need to know to get started!

Bronwyn ATT trainee

“I feel lucky to be training among experts” – Bronwyn #ATTclassof2018

By | Our Trainees

Teaching is such a rewarding career and I love working with children. I love seeing the expression on someone’s face when they finally understand something that they have been struggling with and knowing I’ve helped them achieve that.

I was struck by Ark’s social mission. I had previously volunteered with another educational charity which shared a similar social mission of reducing social inequality. This inspired me to pursue a career that would also provide opportunities for all children, regardless of background.

The wealth of support that Ark offers to teachers in their training year and beyond really stood out to me against all over training providers. Ark also offers a large number of schools to train in across England which gave me the flexibility to train in a place that suited both me and the school.

I studied music at the University of Bristol and was involved in the music society ensembles. I was initially torn between working in the marketing industry or teaching, but after part-time jobs in both sectors I realised that I felt more passionately about teaching.

I really enjoyed being able to meet like-minded people at summer school who were just as passionate about Ark’s social mission. Practising teaching techniques and learning efficient planning structures made me feel prepared for September.

I’m excited to meet my students and help them foster an appreciation of music. I’m also looking forward to being involved in extra-curricular opportunities like running music ensembles. I feel very lucky to be training to teach in an outstanding school among expert teachers.

Rachel ATT trainee

“I can think of no career more rewarding” – Rachel #ATTclassof2018

By | Our Trainees

Prior to starting my training with Ark, I was a Captain in the British Army Intelligence Corps. During my service, I worked with vulnerable people from across the world. What I witnessed during my time in Helmand, Afghanistan, was a society where children were born into mostly hopeless futures. Futures where basic security was absent, hospital care limited and education nonexistent for most. At home in Britain, I can think of no career more rewarding than one that is dedicated towards offering a fair chance and future for our next generation.

While there are many other teacher training providers, for me, Ark’s mission of giving every young person, regardless of background, a great education meant that I could take forward the sense of purpose I had serving in the Army into my next career.

Having just finished summer school, what really stood out the most were my fellow trainees and the sense of camaraderie that quickly developed; being with a like-minded group of people, with an assortment of fantastic achievements already behind them, was very inspiring. As a complete teaching novice I found the training that we received was easily digestible and hugely supportive.

Now that September is here, I am looking forward to taking the techniques and lessons from summer school forward into the classroom and really getting to know my year ones.

Rachael ATT trainee

“Life will look very different in September…” – Rachael #ATTclassof2018

By | Our Trainees

People have often commented I should consider teaching,  but coming from a family of teachers, I wanted to do my own thing. I did know I wanted to make a difference though, but didn’t know what that would actually look like. After several other jobs and spending a lot of time volunteering with children, I finally accepted that teaching was the right option for me.

Teaching is a privilege; you are a key influence in children’s lives. Regardless of their home life, you have the opportunity to provide a child with hope, self-belief and confidence in their ability.

Ark’s mission and beliefs appeal to me greatly; I am passionate about helping others realise their potential. Growing up in Birkenhead, working as a camp counsellor with kids from American ‘ghettos’, teaching children in Brazilian favelas and working with churches and schools in low-socio economic areas has made me passionate about ensuring everyone has the same opportunities

The programme itself appealed to me because of the level of support you receive; right from the application stage. It was extremely reassuring to know that I would be embarking on a new career in an environment that wanted me to achieve my best and would encourage me at every step.

Having graduated from the University of Exeter in 2014 with a BA Theology, I have spent the last couple of years primarily as a freelance illustrator. I was lucky to be able to publish a children’s book ‘Finley the Fox and the Christmas Bells’. It was incredible to have my drawings in print and I had a great opportunity to read the story to groups of children. This magical experience was one of the final nudges I needed to get into teaching.

I was slightly apprehensive about summer school; it was a significant change for me and I was a little nervous about meeting the other trainees. However, it was an extremely beneficial and rewarding experience. The training was really thorough, I finished feeling very prepared for the next year and it was lovely to meet lots of like-minded people.

I loved the final showcase. All the tutor groups came together and shared a short presentation about their experience. After a tough few weeks, it was great to come together and reflect on just how much we had learnt in a couple of weeks.

Life will look very different in September; I am bracing myself for the change in pace but also relishing the challenge. It will be so rewarding to start getting to know my class and beginning to help them realise their potential. Children, particularly at primary age, often provide wonderfully refreshing approaches and reflections on life. I look forward to having a job where my approach to life is regularly enriched by sharing in those moments and experiences.

Ark Teacher Training 2016/17 cohort celebrate graduation

By | Our Trainees

Last month, our 2016/17 trainees celebrated completing their training year with a graduation ceremony at Ark All Saints Academy.

On Tuesday 11 July, our 81 trainees came together in south London to look back over the past year, celebrate their successes and receive their certificates.

Their journey came full circle with the ceremony being held in the same place they begun the programme, almost a year ago, when they attended the two-week summer school.

The evening saw speeches from trainees, tutors, principals, Ark Teacher Training alumni and Ark trustee Anthony Williams. Ark’s new regional director and former Regional Schools Commissioner Rebecca Clark, also addressed our newly qualified teachers to share her advice about the five lessons they should take into their NQT year with them.

Kate Henney, English teacher at Ark Burlington Danes Academy, west London gave a speech to her fellow graduates on the evening; “It has undoubtedly been a hard year – and at times, this evening has felt like an unattainable goal. But here we are. We have worked hard to transform outcomes for the children we work with, but this year has also transformed us. It has been a privilege to be part of this aspirational, caring and motivated cohort, and I am proud of how we have supported one another to this point of graduating as qualified, and transformational, teachers.”

All 81 trainees successfully passed their training year, and are staying in teaching next year.

For all trainees there have been ups and downs, but Craig Smith, PE teacher at Ark Kings Academy in Birmingham, said his highlight was inspiring his students; “I’ve loved teaching a subject I’m passionate about and passing that on to my students. It’s been great to see the progress they have made not only in their PE performance but also as individuals overcoming their own personal barriers.”



Most trainees said they would miss their weekly training sessions, as it gave them a chance to catch-up with the rest of the cohort and share stories from the classroom. Bryony Biamonti, history teacher at Ark Helenswood Academy in Hastings, also said the guidance she’d been given by previous trainees has been invaluable;  “I had excellent advice from the previous cohort before starting Ark Teacher Training last year. Acting on their advice made my training year immeasurably easierThis is the proudest I have ever felt; getting through the year with my classes was one achievement with the PGCE and QTS elements as their own success! It was tough, but I had excellent support from my tutors at Ark and my placement school.”

We wish all our graduates luck as they embark on their NQT years in September and look forward to welcoming our 2017/18 cohort to summer school on Monday 7 August!


Graduate co-teacher programme with Ark Teacher Training

“Being a Co-Teacher allowed me to trial a new career!” Stephen tells us about the benefits of the Graduate Co-Teacher Programme.

By | Our Trainees

Interested in training to teach, but would like a bit more classroom experience before embarking on your teacher training programme? Why not apply for our new Graduate Co-Teacher Programme. Spend a year as a Co-Teacher at one of our primary schools in Birmingham, Hastings or London, earn a salary and gain a strong foundation in teaching and building relationships with pupils, before progressing onto the Ark Teacher Training programme.

Stephen Rodwell Ark Teacher Training traineeStephen, a current Ark Teacher Training trainee was a Co-Teacher before starting the programme. He tells us a bit more about the role and how it’s benefitted him.

I was apprehensive to start teacher training without having much previous experience. I graduated from the University of York in 2013 with a degree in History and knew I was interested in teaching. I’d volunteered as a Teaching Assistant in a few schools for a couple of weeks here and there, but I didn’t feel I knew what being a teacher actually meant. Being a Co-Teacher allowed me to trial a new career. A Co-Teacher is a bit like a Teaching Assistant but with more opportunities to teach and develop your practice.

As a Co-Teacher, I was responsible for teaching a small phonics group every morning in either Reception or Year 1. Aside from that, every day was varied and allowed me to experience many different aspects of school life! Whatever I was doing, I always supported my main class teacher in Maths and Literacy. I would usually teach non-core subjects, such as R.E., music, French and ICT at least one afternoon a week. However, I was only given these responsibilities when I felt comfortable to do so and I usually had support within the classroom. I also had the opportunity to run a number of after-school clubs. I was in charge of Film Club and loved it!

Having been a Co-Teacher for a year, I can see what a valuable insight it gave me into life Life as a graduate co-teacheron the training programme as well as looking forward to next year, as a Newly Qualified Teacher, when I’ll be working with my own Classroom Assistants.

It provided me with a great opportunity to try out lots of things in a safe space. Want to create your first classroom display? Give it a go. Feel like starting a new school club? Why not. I had more time to experiment as a Co-Teacher than I do now I’m on the teacher training programme, because Co-Teachers don’t have the same amount of planning and marking to do. The rest of the staff at my school were great as well, everyone was very supportive and eager to help me develop.

When my year as a Co-Teacher ended and I started the Ark Teacher Training programme at the two-week summer school, I felt so much more confident. I knew I had good experience of observing great lessons and practising my own teaching. I also already knew everyone at my school – from the teachers, to the pupils, to the parents. That meant I wasn’t nervous about September, I was just excited to get started on the programme!

If you’re thinking about teaching, but lack experience, becoming a Co-Teacher provides you with a supportive start to your career in the classroom.

Apply now to our Graduate Co-Teacher Programme starting in September 2017.