Principal's Blog November 2020
I was very much reminded on Monday this week that schools are about people. They are about students and teachers working together to achieve their goals and aspirations. They are about collectively having high expectation. They are about the daily interactions that make schools fun and exciting places to be.
As I walked around our fantastic new building with our founding staff team, I imagined how great it will be in September when our founding cohort of 180 year 7s enter the school for the first time in their new uniforms – the beginning of their secondary education, and the beginning of a brand new school. What a fantastic opportunity! The thought of our students coming through the entrance hall for the first time, and being the first people to sit in the classrooms, was a welcome reminder of why we do what we do. As teachers and leaders, we have an opportunity to change lives.
Our founding staff team were thrilled to finally see our new school building – and were excited to meet each other as a group for the first time. They are an inspiring group of people who really share our mission, which is to ensure our pupils have the education and character to go on to live happy, fulfilled lives as the drivers of their own destinies. It was exciting to think of all the great things that will be achieved in amongst the freshly laid bricks and mortar.
Looking in the main hall with the state of the art lighting and seating it was easy to imagine the assemblies and events that take place which have the potential to inspire students to greatness. The classrooms, including the science labs and computer room are light, airy, modern spaces – ideal for learning.
All we need now for a great school is our students - and some furniture!
All being well, I am looking forward to seeing you all there and to showing you around in the New Year.
At Ark our values are hugely important to us. Over the next four weeks I will be posting a blog on each of these values and what it means for Ark Soane.
The first is Aim High.
There is no doubt that it has been a challenging few months for everyone but, more than ever, I believe the whole of society has recognised the crucial role that schools play in the lives of our young people and their families, and in instilling the drive and ambition in our children to aim high and be the very best they can be.
The founding staff team at Ark Soane were bitterly disappointed when Covid-19 caused the opening of our school to be delayed to 2021. However, I’m thrilled that this hugely talented team has stayed with us in the Ark network and are more excited than ever to see the opening of our new school in September 2021.
Ark Soane is now very much on track for opening in 2021 which gives a whole new set of students the opportunity to be the leaders of the school. We will ensure that everything that the school does meets the Ark values, and none is more important than aiming high.
We will aim high in everything we do. This value will underpin our curriculum; we will aim for grade 9s; we will aim for A*. Work will be pitched to support and challenge every student so that they can reach their potential. We will make sure that every student has the best opportunity to be a success and to reach the University or career of their choice.
We are aiming for the curriculum at Ark Soane to be world leading. It will be developed from the fantastic work that happens in other Ark schools to really develop a strong knowledge base in all of the facilitating subjects. No stone will be left unturned as we seek to learn from, and build on the best work, that has been done in this area. We will have a real focus on English, maths, science, languages and humanities. There will also be an opportunity for developing a depth in our curriculum
I look forward to meeting you either virtually or in person at our upcoming open events.
Opening a new school involves being brave. Joining a new school will also need the students, and parents to be brave.
Children are growing up in a busy and hectic world that is very competitive, full of challenges and it is sometimes scary. Children do not always know if they are going in the right direction. However, being brave can help us all push away those negative thoughts, anxiety and worries. Sometimes, we only need to be brave for a few moments or even seconds.
One of our core aims is to help create the leaders of tomorrow. These leaders are brave. These leaders learn from their mistakes. These leaders come back stronger.
At Ark Soane, we will be brave and make sure that we are the best we can be. We will lead with humility and understanding of everyone’s point of view. The whole school will work together for the good of others.
I want our classrooms filled with students who are brave enough to take on new opportunities. They will make the right decisions and step up when they need to.
We all need a bit of bravery to help us through daily challenges.
Join our school and let us embark on this journey together.
The third Ark value is Be Kind.
It costs nothing to be kind. Kindness is something we see every day, but it is still something the we need to be very explicit about and ensure that we teach. Every student and staff member at Ark Soane will be very obviously kind to each other.
This does not mean we will be soft; remember we will aim high. Our expectations will be clear in all areas including the high standard of behaviour that we expect and the discipline that we will see from students and staff. One way that we will be directly kind to each other is that we will not waste any time. Lessons will be free from distraction that all learning time will be utilised to learn. Why have it any other way?
You sometimes hear the phrase “random acts of kindness.” I am not sure about this. I am not sure why kindness would be random. Kindness should permeate everything we do: the way we act, the tasks we do and the way we speak. There will be no shouting at Ark Soane: staff and students will speak with power and knowledge but will not belittle others or make them feel less important in anyway.
The Ark Soane community will speak to each other in a positive and encouraging way. This positivity will not be false: we will feedback, and we will ensure that mistakes and misconceptions are rectified. Being kind can involve telling someone that something needs to change, but the tone of this conversation is hugely important.
Alongside working hard, being kind is extremely important to me: it is how I live my life and what I expect from others. Being a teacher and leader is an extremely important job, and it should also be done in the right way.
I look forward to meeting and discussing this further at our upcoming open events.
The final Ark value is Keep Learning.
Opening a new school comes with great responsibility but also great opportunity. There is much to learn. Within Ark, there is a wealth of experts and resources to support all parts of the schools’ development. The expertise available and the willingness to share learning is a huge strength of the network.
Ark Soane will benefit massively from this but also from the founding staff, some from Ark schools and others who will bring brilliant ideas from outside the network into Ark Soane and then beyond.
By definition we will insist that all staff and students keep learning during their time at Ark Soane. We will never sit still and expect that the job is done. It never is; there are always things to develop and improve. That is the great thing about being a teacher and a leader. One view of teaching is that a good teacher over time progressively makes themselves unnecessary. Independence is a crucial skill, and this will be explicitly taught at Ark Soane as well as the techniques and skills that a student needs to develop to become an outstanding scholar.
You can see in some schools that when students enter year 12 they struggle with a new way of working, with greater independence and with more reliance on them to organise themselves. This will not be the case at Ark Soane because we will teach them this from day one. Learning will be well structured and clearly defined. Knowledge is powerful, but you have to have the skills to access it. There will be no spoon feeding; all it teaches you is the shape of the spoon.
Our second expectation is that all students will love and excel at reading. Reading is the most powerful learning tool in the box. Reading opens up the whole world for students: everything from an ability to understand the news and the world around is, to the comprehension of scientific texts and beyond this a love of language and great literature. Beyond any other skill, reading is the real key to a great future.
Ark Soane will be a great school, full of great learners and readers.