Hear from our teachers
Mrs Garoghan is Acting Vice Principal at Ark Charter. She joined the school in 2011 as Head of English, and today she is also responsible for Teaching and Learning, CPD and Modern Foreign Languages.
Ark Charter was the first academy in Portsmouth, and AG says she was attracted to the school by its ethos and sense of mission. Thanks to the hard work of the school’s staff, it is now one of the most improved schools in the country.
“We’ve been hugely successful. We’re the most improved school in the country, and top of the league table for 55 similar schools. We have a motto: ‘Work hard, be nice, no excuses.’ Our former Principal, Dame Sharon Hollows, often said it to staff and it’s something we still live and breathe.”
Ark Charter has a strong culture of collaboration, and teachers have access to regular coaching sessions, weekly meetings and shared learnings. Staff are offered the best training and support at every stage of their career.
“We benefit from Ark’s strong network-wide CPD, such as summits and Hub Days. These give us the chance to meet other teachers, take part in moderating, and plan out schemes of work. At my old school, we never visited other schools or took time out to reflect. But here they really welcome you going and spending a day in another school to see how they’re doing it.”
There’s also specialised CPD for Newly Qualified Teachers, who receive their own professional mentor.
“I have a colleague who came as an NQT – we used to go to Ark Central on Saturdays to work with a Chief Examiner from the AQA exam board. Working with the Chief Examiner to understand how papers are written is an amazing opportunity you don’t get in other places.”
The school also offers its teachers the opportunity for rapid career progression.
“In this school it’s about how good you are and not how long you’ve worked here, and if you want to do more there’s always the chance. Ark Charter is good at judging people on their merit and ability. I was pleased to be recognised for the some of the successes we’d had in the school and in my department. I’d never have been Assistant Vice Principal at my old school, I’d have had to wait 20 years.”
There are high expectations placed on pupils at Ark Charter, including a strong line on behaviour. A support framework is in place, as well as an on-call system led by the Pastoral Support Team which means teachers are free to teach.
“We focus on enquiry-based learning, and on students taking charge of their own progress. Every teacher has the flexibility to teach in their own way, as long as the students progress.”
At the centre of Ark Charter’s ethos is staff wellbeing. There is a Staff Wellbeing Coordinator, who is available for listen to any concerns or worries. She also organises social events, including trampolining and paintballing.
“Staff wellbeing and work-life balance are always on the agenda here. We’ve had briefings where a member of the senior leadership team has told everyone to turn their BlackBerry’s off at the weekend. It emphasises the idea that although we have high expectations for our students, we don’t want this at a long-term cost to staff.”
Teachers at the school have more free periods than others in the local authority, leaving them free to plan and prepare their lessons.
Ark Charter fosters a culture of teamwork where everyone works hard, and is doing their best for their pupils.