Free school story: ARK Conway | newschoolsnetwork.org

Free school story: ARK Conway

ARK Conway has a particular focus on teaching pupils the creative arts
Opened in 2011, ARK Conway is an ‘Outstanding’ primary free school in Hammersmith. One of 10 free schools within the ARK Schools network - a high performing academy sponsor that runs over 30 schools nationally - it was started in collaboration with a group of local parents and has already become one of the country’s highest performing primary schools.

ARK Conway’s vision is “to inspire excellence”, something it is clearly doing already. Last year’s Key Stage 1 results showed that it had the best joint mathematics and reading scores of any school in the country, outperforming all other schools in both the state and independent sector, and the fifth best writing results.

Reflecting on this success, Headteacher Damian McBeath said, “we hope that Ark Conway’s results will raise the bar for others and their perceptions of what can be achieved in state education. It is exciting to see the rapid progress pupils can make when teachers, parents and peers share a common culture of excellence.”

At ARK Conway, this culture of excellence includes a unique approach to the delivery of subjects such as mathematics, where pupils’ ‘Maths in Focus’ projects are based on the latest syllabus from Singapore’s Ministry of Education, and the performing arts, with weekly lessons provided by staff at the nearby Lyric Theatre. As well as building an outstanding curriculum, Ark Conway has piloted a successful teacher development programme, with staff teaming up with the University of York’s acclaimed education faculty to improve and refine their teaching methods with the help of new research.

Its achievements have been recognised by Ofsted, as well as the league tables, with inspectors judging the school to be ‘Outstanding’ in every category in 2013. Their report also noted the school’s strong links with parents, recording a typical comment from one as, “we felt like we’d won the lottery when our child gained a place here”.