At Ark Charter Academy we want all our learners, particularly the most disadvantaged, to have the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life and to enable them to become compassionate, academically successful, valued members of our community. We believe that everyone deserves to be accepted, included and empowered to sustain the life of their choice whilst making a positive contribution to their community. Our curriculum is a key driver of this vision and our Christian ethos. We place the curriculum at the heart of school life. It drives all other decisions that we make and is the best means we have of demonstrating as a school what we believe in and what we stand for. Our curriculum is a broad, balanced and equitable offer; built around the core disciplines of English, mathematics, science, humanities, languages and religious education. All subject areas prepare students for future study within their discipline, with mastery of core and foundation subjects ensuring students have choice later on in their education, as they specialise in key areas of study. The curriculum in each subject area has been designed backwards from university study and A-Level through to GCSE, and into the KS3 phase to ensure students can reach their fullest potential. As a school we are passionate about our young people being taught the best of what has been thought and written; supporting them to navigate their way through the skills and knowledge required to empower them, thus providing greater choice in a world which can sometimes seem unjust. We know that learning can best be defined as a change in one's long-term memory and that the best way of testing the effectiveness of a curriculum and its delivery by teachers is to evaluate how much of that taught curriculum a student can use at a given point in the future.
Assessment plays a key role at Ark Charter and is intrinsically linked to both curriculum and teaching and learning. Frequent formative assessment in class through low stakes testing advises students on how to improve their work and make progress. Students receive regular feedback on how to make progress. Our curriculum is organised into three cycles, and formal examinations take place bi-annually. These summative assessments allow students and staff opportunity to measure progress against national standards and inform our interventions to support students in reaching their full potential.
How students are grouped?
We believe that students perform best when working with peers of a similar ability in core and foundation subjects. Students are baseline tested on entry to the academy and as such from key stage 3 our classes are set, with opportunities for students to change classes according to the progress they are making after key assessment points. Students who have lower starting points benefit from being placed our nurture group or smaller lower sets where they are supported with an expert teacher and additional support, following an adjusted curriculum. However, our houses and tutor groups are mixed ability, facilitating collaborative work across all abilities reflecting our inclusive ethos.
What design principles shape our curriculum?
- Clear focus on the core concepts within each subject and the specific knowledge required within each subject area.
- A clear acknowledgement that students need deep knowledge of a subject in order to think creatively or critically about it.
- A fundamental acknowledgement that to “think like a scientist,” a student must know the facts, concepts and procedures that a scientist knows and must see the teacher as the expert.
- A clear belief that almost all students should be able to learn almost all material in a standard school curriculum.
- A clear acknowledgement that if students have not learned material early in a curriculum, they will have more difficulty with material later in the curriculum.
- We develop a high degree of challenge from the first day at school. We accept that students arriving at the school have a capacity to work with complex ideas and we ensure that the curriculum treats students as intelligent.
The curriculum through all phases of the school is designed such that students leave Ark Charter Academy:
- Culturally literate and able to contextualise events and experiences and act accordingly.
- With a broad domain-specific knowledge base that allows them to conceptualise the world in more scientific ways
- Able to participate in the national discourse
- Committed to doing the best they can
- Skilled enough to make a valuable contribution to society and the economy
- Able to take ownership of their future
- Aware of their community and willing to play a constructive role in it
How is our curriculum planned?
Each subject lead will drive their curriculum by being able to articulate the following:
- What do you want your students in your school to know by the end of each key phase? Why is this knowledge important?
- What are the topics that are fundamental for your students to study? Why are they so important?
- Which concepts will they need to understand to achieve strongly at GCSE and A-level?
- Are you being as ambitious as you can be for your students? Is there sufficient challenge in the curriculum you are setting?
- Does your curriculum reflect the diversity of your student body?
- Do all your team share a clear vision for the curriculum? Are they all able to articulate this if asked? Do the students know this vision?
- How does your curriculum deliver the Christian vision and values of the Academy?
- How does your curriculum build towards GCSE and A-Level? (it should build towards this but not be constrained by it)
- How many lessons do you have per year? How do you split this between the topics you have chosen? Should all topics have equal attention?
- How are you framing your topics? Are you using the right key questions?
- Are your topics / enquiry questions grounded in and reflecting the most recent research within your subject?
- How will you structure units? Will it be chronologically or will you look at a more thematic approach?
- Does the sequence of units or the sequence of lessons make sense? Will students have sufficient background knowledge from previous units or lessons to undertake the next?
- How are you building on knowledge from prior years? How are you building on KS2 knowledge in Year 7? How are you building on Year 7 knowledge in Year 8 and so on?
- Are there questions that underpin the entire curriculum (e.g. What are people’s beliefs?) that could be returned to time and time again?
- Should you build in pauses in the curriculum for reflection and to return to previously covered material?
- Is the core knowledge you expect to see covered in lessons explicit to staff, students and parents?
- Is there a list of key academic vocabulary that should be used in lessons?
- How will you use homework to ensure students meet your curriculum intention?
- How will you know your students have met your curriculum intention?
- Is your assessment designed for your curriculum rather than being constrained by GCSE assessment models designed for 16 year olds?
- How much assessment is enough for the students to get sufficient feedback to improve their work but not increase your staff workload?
- Does your assessment system test if students are building knowledge across a term, a year or the key stage?
- How are you explicitly testing pupil’s substantive and disciplinary knowledge?
How do we deliver enrichment and character?
At Ark Charter we believe that students need to access knowledge and skills outside of individual academic disciplines. At the core of this is our Six Charter Skills which are harnessed in lessons to intentionally coach students in academic skills. These are also utilised beyond lessons to build character through the house system and extra-curricular programme in conjunction with PSCHE, careers and current affairs. Students are encouraged in all lessons to utilise the skills to achieve the best possible outcomes for themselves.
- Determination – We never give up even when things seem really tough.
- Team work – We share our skills and learn from each other.
- Honesty – We are fair and truthful in all we do and trust others to be the same.
- Responsibility – We take ownership of our actions and always try to improve.
- Kindness – We take care of ourselves and the people around us.
- Independence – Behaviour that displays a growing level of self-discipline, demonstrating an ability to work alone.
We take a holistic approach to learning and developing our young people over their time with us. In addition to our core examined curriculum, we offer a full enrichment and Character Programme. Enrichment is mapped across the curriculum, high quality activities are sourced to give students the opportunity to engage in experiences beyond the academic curriculum and develop themselves as well rounded people and as good citizens, activities include: diversity club, swimming club, sailing clubs, languages clubs and a wide range of others. We run an extensive range of trips in all curriculum areas to support and enrich curriculum learning. We utilise all the local area has to offer, including museums and universities. We also recently expanded our offer to include residential visits abroad to stretch our students’ horizons and allow them to apply their knowledge and skills in different contexts. Students interested in the creative arts can perform in our annual shows and musical concerts. We offer opportunities for students to take up instruments and join the school choir should they choose to. The ARK network offer additional opportunities to participate in the Music Gala, Shakespeare Schools Festival, Debating competitions, Spelling Bees and Maths challenge. Our Character Programme runs across both key stages: delivering a holistic PSHCE education through assemblies and tutorial periods to support our young people with the skills required to become thoughtful and content individuals.
How do we deliver careers?
Students also benefit from our career’s destination journey, which maps out how each year group at Ark Charter benefits from our core entitlement and is fully aligned to the Gatsby benchmarks of best practice in careers education:
- All students participate in four Careers Week assemblies per year, where relatable guest speakers address a range of career and employment related issues, e.g. challenging stereotypes, bias, futureproofing, etc.
- All students participate in four Enrichment Days per year, engaging in a range of subject-stretching, career and employment skills activities facilitated by external providers
- All students participate in three STEM weeks per year, where school staff and guest speakers deliver STEM subjects extending activities, linking with future options
- All students in Year 7 participate in “Get Inspired Portsmouth” careers fair
- All students in Year 9 participate in “Big Bang @ Solent” careers fair
- All students in KS4 and their parents participate in annual Ark Charter Academy careers fair
- All students in Year 10 undertake 2 weeks of meaningful work experience
- All students in Years 9 and 10 participate in an annual whole cohort Business Speed Networking event with business volunteers, focussed on exposure to the world of employment
- All students in Year 10 participate in an annual 2-day Employment Interview event facilitated by business volunteers and focussed on professional communication
- All students in Years 11 have at least one session of 1-to-1 career advice as they approach the end of key stage
- All students have access to Careers Adviser throughout their time at Ark Charter (bookable via tutor)
- Targeted groups of students are selected for various intensive courses and activities run with partner organisations, such as:
- 60 less engaged high and medium prior attainers from targeted backgrounds (NCOP, EHCP, PP, BME females, first gen HE) enrolled annually on a 5-year longitudinal programme with universities of Portsmouth and Southampton
- 20 disengaged male students in year 9 participating in Marginal Gains programme focussed on resilience and motivation
- This is all underpinned by careers education within the curriculum via PSHE in Years 9-11. Work is currently underway to introduce careers work into PSHE for Years 7 and 8.
How do we deliver reading?
We want student to leave Ark Charter as fluent readers who are able to make inferences and judgements from a variety of texts. In addition to this we want our students to be confident speakers who can speak confidently and fluently to a variety of audiences and have the ability to listen and learn from others. We also create opportunities for students to write extended pieces which are cogent and well-argued thus ensuring that our students leave us as self- aware and emotionally intelligent individuals.
- We push all students regardless of their starting points to progress and exceed their reading ages to empower them for the rigors of GCSE examinations and life beyond compulsory education.
- All students in Key Stage 3 enjoy a weekly Library Lesson, which is comprised of sustained episodes of group and individual reading.
- Our library stock is colour coded to match pupils' reading levels which help students match their reading choices to an appropriate level of support and challenge.
- The Academy library hosts a range of annual book fairs and literary events which expose students to new and thought-provoking texts; as well as giving them the opportunities to engage with the authors of junior fiction.
- Our staff role model reading a part of their own lives, sharing with students their favourite texts during form time and assemblies (this is in motion!)
- 17 students in Yr 7 and 2 Yr 8 students are enrolled on the catch-up reading programme. N.B. There represent the priority pupils owing to capacity issues
- 28 students in Yr 7 are enrolled in the Fresh Start programme.
- 25 pupils in Yr 8 are enrolled in the Fresh Start programme.
- 12 students in Yr 9 with a reading age below 9 years are working towards an Entry Level qualification in Functional Skills as a pre-GCSE accreditation.