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“Transformative”: Ark Curriculum Plus impact within St Joseph Catholic Multi Academy Trust

“Transformative”: Ark Curriculum Plus impact within St Joseph Catholic Multi Academy Trust

“Transformative”: Ark Curriculum Plus impact within St Joseph Catholic Multi Academy Trust


St Joseph Catholic Multi Academy Trust is based in the Liverpool City region and serves some of the most disadvantaged communities in the country. The trust was set up in 2021, bringing together two secondary schools and five primaries, with the aim of rapidly improving educational outcomes for those students.

In September 2022, the Trust began implementing Ark Curriculum Plus (AC+) Programmes in Mathematics, English, Science, History and Geography across all seven of its schools.

Andrew Truby, CEO of the Trust, explains that “as a newly formed trust with a considerable amount of school improvement challenge, we did not have a coherent, well sequenced curriculum in place. We needed to look for something that was going to not only give us the very best possible and most ambitious curriculum we could find, but our staff also needed really high-quality professional development.”

The impact so far

For Andrew, the partnership has already been “really transformative in terms of staff, students and outcomes.”

Michelle Forrest, Headteacher at Holy Spirit Catholic Academy within the Trust, adds: The partnership with Ark Curriculum Plus has had a massive impact in our school. Our teachers are so much more confident in what they are teaching, standards across the school have raised immensely and our children are really engaged in their learning.”

Students are rising to the challenge

What really stands out to Andrew about AC+ is the “high expectations for all children to be successful.” And pupils are rising to that challenge.

At Blessed Carlo Acutis Catholic and Church of England Academy, Headteacher Alicia Freeman explains: “The students are fully engaged. Watching them able to unpick language and meaning and inference in some difficult texts is a highlight of the curriculum for me.”

“Students are appreciating the curriculum, know that it’s benefiting them and know that they are learning more,” says Michael Gun-Why, Secondary Director of School Improvement at the Trust.

The clear sequence of learning in the curriculum is a major contributing factor. “We can see the impact every day in classrooms,” says Adele Quarless, Acting Headteacher at St Augustine of Canterbury Catholic Academy. “All of our classrooms follow the same sequence of learning; our pupils know exactly what’s coming next.”

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Teachers spend more time on delivery than creating lesson resources

Teachers are embracing this consistent structure too, coupled with the flexibility to put their own stamp on it.

“You’ve got to put your own identity onto it,” explains Adele. “Staff say that’s the best part, they don’t feel like they are just taking something off the shelf, they have to own it.”

Joanna Stirrup, Head of English at St Augustine expanded on this, explaining that with everything mapped out and detailed co-planning tools “our staff have everything they need to make planning effective.”

The resources and support are also a huge win with teachers. “Workload at the moment is a massive issue, so to have those resources there that we can then adapt really makes sure our time is getting used effectively,” says Stacey Rowan, Head of Science at Blessed Carlos Acutis.

All this is leading to major gains in teacher confidence and effectiveness in the classroom. Interestingly, Andrew tells us, this is “not only in the lessons where we are delivering the AC+ programmes but also across other lessons, because that high quality pedagogical approach is translating into other subject areas.”

Valuable professional development

Staff also find the professional development available as part of the AC+ programmes immensely valuable.

“The AC+ team are absolutely fantastic in terms of CPD, in terms of staff training, putting the teachers minds at ease and saying let’s just try it together,” says Adele. Referring to the annual AC+ conference, she adds: “The level of CPD we received was phenomenal, lots of staff are keen to go on that again.”

"The professional development our staff receive through AC+ is first class," adds Michelle. "Staff are always aware of how they can improve, and it really supports my leaders in knowing what they are looking for, how to improve standards and how best to support the staff in our school."

A genuine partnership

What makes the partnership so successful? Andrew tells us that “As a MAT we are not on our own, we have a shared ambition with colleagues who work for AC+ who are with us on that journey, it’s that true partnership that really makes the difference, where we all believe together that every single child will achieve.”

The change that this journey brings is not an easy thing to navigate, Michael points out, and it needs to be managed well. “The people at AC+ arrive with that skillset. It’s in the DNA of the organisation.”

The Headteachers welcome the collaborative nature of the relationship with AC+. Alicia says, “It is a discussion, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.”

Adele sums up the sentiment from the Trust nicely: “It’s just been amazing and if we could have it in every subject we would.”

How can we help?

Want to find out how our mastery programmes can support teaching and learning in your school?

Then contact our friendly partnerships team who will be happy to talk you through the programmes and help you decide on the right approach for your school.

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