We are delighted to introduce you to Ark Pioneer, a new-start non-selective secondary school in Barnet. We believe that every child has the ability to be a knowledgeable, articulate, and successful individual and we are committed to realising this potential, enabling every child to go on to the best universities, apprenticeship courses and careers of their choice.
Ark’s North London region is home to a number of new-start secondaries and sixth forms. In the last 15 years, Ark has opened five other new schools in North London including King Solomon Academy, Ark Academy, Isaac Newton Academy and Ark John Keats Academy - all judged outstanding by Ofsted - and the newest school Ark Soane Academy which opened in 2021.
We have the highest standards for every member of the school community. First and foremost, our learning environment is calm and purposeful. As part of this, we expect the best from our pupils in terms of their effort, organisation and behaviour. Our curriculum is rich and stimulating and our teaching staff are subject experts who provide high quality teaching, supporting and challenging every child in their care.
At Ark Pioneer we have a longer school day, allowing every pupil extra time to support their learning and development across a rich curriculum offer. Pupils take part in our timetabled enrichment programme twice a week, which includes a range of activities from debating to dance, trampolining to psychology, broadening their horizons and developing interests that will stay with them after they leave school. We encourage our musicians to flourish subsidising instrumental lessons and shaping bands, ensembles and our wonderful choir, we take part in regional and network sports events and are very proud of our new building, which offers first class facilities.
We are very excited to see our founding pupils develop as we progress through our fourth year at Pioneer.
Our six pillars
Our school is built on six pillars, which are present in all aspects of our practice, setting our long-term vision and driving day-to-day decision making.
Raising aspirations is at the heart of everything we do at Ark Pioneer. We inspire pupils to think deeply and broadly about the world around them and the opportunities it presents. Ark Pioneer pupils understand the impact that school and further education can have on their future life. Our teachers introduce and discuss further study, career options and aspirational role models. Guest speakers share their career insights each half term. Our pupils visit a university each year, with visits increasingly tailored to individual aspirations as they get older. This gives each of them a comprehensive understanding of a range of careers and the qualifications, skills and experiences they need in order to pursue them.
Pupils also recognise how their learning, character and personal development supports their future prospects; to support this, Ark Pioneer offers an extensive enrichment programme. This gives our pupils the opportunity to develop lifelong talents, skills and passions.
Rigorous, academic curriculum
At Ark Pioneer, our curriculum provides each pupil with a solid foundation for further study. Ark Pioneer subject leaders have planned content backwards from university to provide a rigorous curriculum that promotes curiosity and explores the big ideas underpinning each area of study. Each subject includes a thorough base of knowledge and develops a depth of understanding that supports future learning in that subject area.
Pupils at Ark Pioneer have a longer school day, allowing them to study a wide range of subjects. More time for English and maths ensures that pupils develop literacy and numeracy skills to a very high level. We forensically track how pupils are doing in order to identify underperformance and plan appropriate support. In addition to regular assessment in lessons, pupils benefit from challenging cumulative tests in termly exam weeks, which test mastery of the content taught. Assessments are preceded by a whole-school revision drive, focussing on research-based revision skills. Pupils and teachers review and reflect on each assessment; identifying gaps and taking steps to address them, developing a growth mindset in each pupil.
Every Ark Pioneer teacher is passionate about their subject, with excellent subject knowledge and a detailed understanding of the curriculum, recognising how each lesson’s learning fits into pupils’ broader development within the subject. Teachers ask pertinent, challenging questions that deepen understanding and fostering a curiosity for learning in every pupil. Lessons are carefully planned to allow adequate time to embed new knowledge, understanding and skills. Academic language is a feature of our lessons.
We emphasise progress rather than attainment. Our teachers systematically check pupils’ understanding and act to correct any misconceptions, providing each pupil with individual feedback to move their learning forward. We create an excellent climate for learning in every classroom. Pupils are encouraged to try hard, to take pride in all aspects of their work and to participate fully in every lesson, embracing every challenge we set them. Teaching at Ark Pioneer is a team effort: each teacher plans collaboratively with their department. We continuously improve our teaching and our curriculum, making intelligent use of data and our collective experience to achieve excellent outcomes for our pupils.
At Ark Pioneer, we build on each child’s character and habits to support their academic and personal development. Our Values & Character programme teaches pupils about our community values and personal attributes through concrete examples. In-class discussion, assemblies and presentations by external speakers give our pupils the language and structure to explore issues relevant to society, while also instilling the values that will guide their personal development.
We develop the key learning dispositions needed to succeed at university and in the workplace. Pupils learn to be independent and organised. We teach them how to take notes and conduct research, how to listen, discuss and debate; we build their confidence speaking in public.
Providing the right support for pupils means knowing each individual well; to begin this relationship effectively, we arrange a home visit with every pupil's family before they start at Ark Pioneer Academy.
At Ark Pioneer, we teach self-discipline and develop a sense of responsibility in all of our pupils. We provide a focussed and purposeful environment that allows pupils to learn, to show and receive respect and to develop the behaviours that allow them to play a full role in society. We set high standards for behaviour and explain to parents and pupils how these standards are key in creating and sustaining an excellent school.
Pupils are inducted and practised in lesson routines that create a positive climate for learning in every classroom. School is calm and orderly; all transitions are managed carefully to maximise time for learning. Our systems for behaviour are clear, designed to enable pupils to reflect on and learn from their mistakes and develop their ability to make good decisions. All staff implement our systems consistently, in a kind and respectful manner.
Ark Pioneer is a community of professionals who strive for excellent practice and constant improvement. We provide consistent, high quality training to every member of staff, whatever their role.
First and foremost, our school environment fosters excellence in teaching. Our teaching practice is developed through weekly collaborative planning, weekly coaching and whole school training programme, supplemented by annual training days and a comprehensive induction for new staff. Our mentoring and coaching programme concentrates on developing individual practice. We place high value on learning from each other through regular learning walks and observations, and we have an ‘open-door’ policy for all lessons.
Secondly, all teachers are leaders at Ark Pioneer. We encourage teachers to think strategically and we listen to their ideas on where we can make improvements. Teachers have ownership of assessment data and use it to improve their teaching and the curriculum.
Thirdly, we are committed to developing everyone who takes on leadership positions within the school. We run leadership-focussed training sessions and offer one-to-one support. This involves joint monitoring activities, co-planning key aspects of each role and evaluating strategic planning. We also observe and provide feedback on delivery of training, on coaching / mentoring and on leading collaborative planning meetings.
Effective organisation at Ark Pioneer
We want Ark Pioneer to be a school that makes a lasting impact on the local community, consistently and sustainably delivering an exceptional standard of education for local children. Successfully delivering this vision means we must be a school where everyone has time to do their job well. As a whole school, we are careful and deliberate in how we allocate our time and resources. Our calendar and timetable facilitate effective team work, from weekly co-planning and training sessions, to strategic analysis and evaluation days. We do not have meetings after school, but make them a central part of our week, with a clear purpose and impact on our practice. Deadlines are given a term in advance and we allocate time for planning and reviewing so that it can be a considered and high leverage part of our annual cycle. We have an open dialogue about workload and organisation, and provide guidance for staff on prioritisation. In summary, we work together efficiently to ensure we can deliver our vision fully in all aspects of our school.