Hear from our teachers
Ms Armitage is Assistant Principal at King Solomon Academy. She joined the school in 2014 as an instructional coach, responsible for training and supporting the development of teachers.
“I was working in another school in west London, but the opportunities for career progression had stagnated. Lots of my colleagues were moving on. One of my former colleagues worked at an Ark school and she arranged for me to observe some lessons at King Solomon. It was so refreshing to see all the things she’d tried to do at the previous school were being done at King Solomon to great effect. The kids were just doing so well.”
King Solomon Academy is pioneering. Sixty-five per cent of its pupils come from the 1% most deprived homes in the country. But this hasn’t stopped it from dreaming big, and achieving bigger.
In 2015, 95% of its pupils got five good GCSEs. This is the highest result of any non-selective comprehensive in the country. The school is showing that with a great education, nothing is a barrier to success.
King Solomon Academy’s success is largely down to the flexibility and trust afforded to staff, its risk-taking nature and the innovative approaches it’s adopted.
“The teaching style is as pupil-led as possible. We let the children act as facilitators and take responsibility for their learning. For example, in maths lessons the teacher doesn’t speak for the first 20 minutes. Because this is habitual, pupils know what to expect in each class and they do it. We’ve worked hard to get the children to be active verbal learners. It’s not that there’s less teacher talk, but more student talk. Our pupils should be working and talking much more.”
King Solomon Academy is a small, dynamic school with a rigid behaviour management system in place. There’s a class-based scoring system, where pupils can earn prizes every half term but they have to be mindful, professional, and achieve positive results.
Teachers receive regular training and an extensive programme of CPD, no matter what stage they are in their career. Professional development is thoughtfully planned and teachers get the tools they need to be at their best.
“King Solomon is looking for teachers who want feedback, will act on it and improve. The school works with new teachers before the pupils arrive to make sure that its staff know what’s happening. There are many different methods used to teach pupils from challenging backgrounds.
One of the reasons I joined King Solomon was because of the CPD available, such as training in educationalist Doug Lemov’s ‘Teach Like a Champion’ model.”
In recent years, Doug has repeatedly visited the school to see its successes, observing lessons and giving feedback to teachers.
“Because of the Ark network, the professional opportunities are huge. Career progression here is rapid. Since arriving 18 months ago, I’ve become Assistant Principal and now I’m responsible for Key Stage 3.”
Teachers at KSA meet with their line manger every week and relationships are strong. New teachers also receive the support of an instructional coach, who provides additional observation, feedback and organises social events.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best place to be if you want to get better at teaching. In most schools, you’re observed 3-6 times a year and the observation is judgemental rather than developmental. At KSA it is quite the opposite.”