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Banishing illiteracy: Paul Marshall talks to The Key


We invited Paul Marshall, chairman of ARK schools, to visit The Key and speak to us about his approach to tackling the impact of disadvantage on attainment. As background, he told us that 45% of pupils enrolled at ARK schools are presently claiming free school meals.

I was struck by the way Paul compared the need to tackle illiteracy and innumeracy here to a campaign to combat tuberculosis in Africa.

Paul said that one fifth of all English children currently leave school without basic levels of literacy and numeracy. “That’s one fifth of students who are unable to access the world of work,” he said. We asked how he thought ARK was addressing this in practice. He explained that in ARK schools 32% of curriculum time is spent on literacy and numeracy lessons. He reckoned this was considerably more than in most schools.

We also discussed his focus on using data and assessment to inform teaching. He was confident that in ARK schools teachers know at the end of every day whether their lessons have been mastered by each pupil. He said that problems are identified straight away and targeted interventions put in place for the next lesson.

When we queried the role of governance in ARK schools, Paul stressed again the importance of data. Holding headteachers and departments to account is “absolutely critical”. “The driver for accountability is data – all governors must know how to use it properly”.

Let us know your thoughts on this focus on literacy and numeracy by leaving a comment below.

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