Free school founded three years ago is beating England’s best

The Times is reporting that a small primary free school near Wormwood Scrubs prison in London has achieved the best results in the country, three years after it opened…

The paper says that at Ark Conway primary academy 100% of the children achieved the expected standard or higher in mathematics, the highest result in in England, and 93 per cent did so in English, a figure equalled by just one other school…

Head Damian McBeath is reported as suggesting the success is due to strong teaching and a system where each class has both a teacher and co-teacher (a graduate on a teacher training programme) which the school use instead of classroom assistants. The school also apparently uses a maths curriculum adapted from Singapore.

In describing Ark Conway’s use of co-teachers, the report says the main teacher takes lessons in the morning, while the graduate co-teacher can intervene to help children who do not understand what is being taught, with the roles reversed in the afternoon…

More at: Free school founded three years ago is beating England’s best (subscription may be required)


Apparently the school is only taking on 30 children this year and the small size must impact on the robustness of its results, but what do you make of the co-teacher concept as described? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


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Categories: Free Schools and Primary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Fair play to the school, as with any type of school there will be good and bad. The “co-teacher” thing sounds expensive

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Credit where it’s due; no doubt Tory politicians will highlight this in speeches, conveniently forgetting failing Free schls

  3. ajjolley

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove be interesting to see it sustained.
    Remember Free schools tend to get extra funding for first couple of years

  4. andylutwyche

    ajjolley SchoolsImprove Exactly! The co-teacher thing will be more expensive than TAs I would have thought and beyond most budgets

  5. andylutwyche

    ajjolley SchoolsImprove Possibly – I don’t know the details either. Either they will be more expensive or will need replacing every year

  6. Penny_Ten

    andylutwyche ajjolley SchoolsImprove expensive is fine so long as it works surely? Why have cheap & ineffective? Spend well

  7. Nor_edu

    andylutwyche ajjolley SchoolsImprove unqualified teachers on first year grad programmes are still quite cheap aren’t they? Not sure on £s

  8. Penny_Ten

    andylutwyche ajjolley SchoolsImprove sometimes just breaking away from accepted norms and doing something different can release results

  9. andylutwyche

    Nor_edu ajjolley SchoolsImprove Possibly, no idea. In that case they will need replacing every year which incurs other costs

  10. Penny_Ten

    andylutwyche ajjolley SchoolsImprove you could achieve same results by investing in great training & PM for TAs I suppose?

  11. andylutwyche

    Penny_Ten ajjolley SchoolsImprove Agreed! If affordable more should try it, assuming that there are people who want to do the role

  12. Nor_edu

    andylutwyche ajjolley SchoolsImprove that struck me first when I read it. Unless they are currently still increasing intakes?

  13. andylutwyche

    Penny_Ten ajjolley SchoolsImprove You could indeed, assuming that it was affordable. Budgets are extremely tight as you know

  14. ajjolley

    Penny_Ten andylutwyche SchoolsImprove which is what I think Free schools should be about
    They should try new stuff & see methods analysed

  15. andylutwyche

    Nor_edu ajjolley SchoolsImprove No idea – there’s more to this story than is reported. If good and affordable then it should be shared

  16. Penny_Ten

    andylutwyche ajjolley SchoolsImprove I know budgets are tight but often spending on things that are not giving value for money

  17. andylutwyche

    ajjolley Penny_Ten SchoolsImprove I quite agree. What people must remember is that some FS will work, others won’t. All will be different

  18. ajjolley

    andylutwyche Penny_Ten SchoolsImprove would go further, use FS as experimental schools, highly scrutinised, but about trying new methods

  19. Penny_Ten

    ajjolley andylutwyche SchoolsImprove yup. I worked in an experimental school a while back. Much scrutiny & criticism. Was interesting

  20. andylutwyche

    ajjolley Penny_Ten SchoolsImprove That’s essentially how they’re selling themselves and how the DfE is deciding to fund them isn’t it?

  21. ajjolley

    Penny_Ten andylutwyche SchoolsImprove should be a mechanism for all schools to share best practice, but need a small number to innovate

  22. Penny_Ten

    ajjolley andylutwyche SchoolsImprove my teaching qualification is in fact specialised in free school and experimental education.

  23. ajjolley

    andylutwyche Penny_Ten SchoolsImprove no, as far as I am aware v few are being innovative. Many are just another part of a MATs now

  24. ajjolley

    andylutwyche Penny_Ten SchoolsImprove would be nice to see if extra funding to have small classes worked better than comparable schools?

  25. Penny_Ten

    ajjolley andylutwyche SchoolsImprove I think comparing is rife with difficulty. Part of success in methods is gained through enthusiasm

  26. ajjolley

    Penny_Ten andylutwyche SchoolsImprove but that evidence is necessary for policy makers?
    Unless it’s political like UIFSM

  27. Penny_Ten

    ajjolley andylutwyche SchoolsImprove true but still can be ‘politicised’ to choose whatever the current party likes best.

  28. VictoriaJaquiss

    SchoolsImprove It’s all statistics and manipulation. Makes me sad. Makes me ill. All this best in country business. What’s the point?

  29. ged10

    nastyoldmrpike ?not nec so.Enabled children from disturbed backgrounds to read w SP.Reading malinstruction,confusion had been major problem

  30. Janet2

    The results can’t be verified.  They’re KS1 results not KS2.  They won’t appear in School Performance Tables.

    That said, ARK Conway was judged Outstanding in July 2013.  Not much info in 2013 School Performance Table.  No results because no Sats taken in 2013. However, 20% of pupils were FSM.  This is much lower than the Hammersmith and Fulham average of 58%.    20% of pupils have English as a Second Language.  This, again, is much lower than the H&F average of 53%.

    No doubt the results will be hyped by the Gov’t as being a vindication of free schools, academy chains etc.  But two of ARK’s B’Ham academies have just been judged RI and Inadequate.  Funny, that’s not in the Times article.

  31. Janet2

    @nastyoldmrpike ged10 20% of pupils FSM.  Much lower than Hammersmith and Fulham average of 58%.    20% of pupils English as a Second Language. Also much  lower than the H&F average of 53%.

  32. Janet2

    @ajjolley Penny_Ten andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Innovation held back by accountability measures (Academies Commission 2013)

  33. ShuaibKhan26

    SchoolsImprove Of course it would be! Free schools have taken the resources needed by the poorest schools and the poorest students!

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