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Ark Fellows leverage their leadership skills in Uganda

Wednesday 18th February 2015

Hayley Francis is a classroom teacher from Ark Oval Primary Academy and Mark Critchard is Ark Schools’ Network Lead for Mathematics and former Head of Maths at Evelyn Grace Academy. Both were selected as part of the Ark Fellows Programme and spent two weeks in Uganda this summer, sharing knowledge with Ark partner organisation Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS).

“At the time of travelling, we knew we would have the opportunity to meet with various school leaders, observe some great teachers and get a snapshot of how PEAS are educating their pupils,” said Ms Francis. “What we didn’t know at the beginning, was how we could best help the PEAS team to improve the teaching and learning within their schools. Seven schools, twelve lesson observations, two modelled lessons and 9800 kilometres later, we had a clear picture of what we could do to improve teaching and learning.”

Mr Critchard said: “Many teachers that we met in Uganda were inexperienced and told us that they needed help improving their current teaching practice. But we wanted to do this without overloading them with advice and targets.”

Local teachers confided to Ms Francis and Mr Critchard that lesson observation, a common teacher improvement tool, wasn’t well-regarded in the schools they visited. Teachers found that the feedback they received from observations mostly focused on the negative – telling teachers what they were doing wrong without emphasizing where they were successful.

It became clear very quickly to both Ark educators that one thing would be able to provide a practical solution to some of the challenges faced by PEAS schools and teachers: Leverage Leadership, a model which focuses on specific, measurable targets. The Fellows worked closely with the team at PEAS to implement changes.

“It was absolutely successful,” said Ms Francis. “We created training materials and put together sessions about how to provide small, measurable action steps for improvement. These all emphasised the importance of practice and role-play, so teachers had a clear idea of how to work techniques into their lessons.”

Ark Fellows can be a challenging experience: PEAS run schools in remote rural areas and the Fellows faced conditions very different from their everyday school lives. Teaching English to 120 students was a daunting experience for Mr Critchard but a hugely rewarding one, “I loved it and would happily go again. Working so closely with staff from such a different context was both rewarding and great for my own development as a teacher.”

The experience was one which will stay with both Fellows well beyond the summer: “meeting the pupils in the PEAS schools was the highlight of my trip,” said Ms Francis. “Seeing how much they value and enjoy their education was motivating and inspiring. Despite the many challenges they face, they were committed to learn.”

Ark is again looking for Fellows to work with PEAS in 2015. If you would like to follow Mark and Hayley to Uganda please read more about the Fellows programme below.

The Ark Fellows programme is an opportunity for talented and ambitious teachers and school leaders to work in our international schools during summer or Easter holidays. Working with a partner school in South Africa, India or Uganda, Fellows share their expertise in school leadership and best practice. We are looking for a combination of exceptional teachers who have experience training their peers, and outstanding school leaders who can support our partners as they strive for excellence in challenging circumstances.  Contact Katherine.Pollendine@arkonline.org for more information or click here to learn more and apply.