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Education at Scale: Scaling Reach Through Solutions with Impact

For Ark, scaling reach hasn’t always meant adding schools; the organisation wants to have a much wider impact. Caroline Doherty talks about growth in trusts, the need for consolidation and codification, and providing school solutions at scale.

Caroline Doherty is Head of Public Affairs at Ark. Ark is one of the oldest multi-academy trusts in what is a very young part of the education sector. Unlike many other trusts, it existed as a charity doing a wider range of work in international development before opening its first school in England. Over the past 20 years, Ark has grown a network of 39 schools in London, Birmingham, Hastings and Portsmouth, and incubated over 20 innovative programmes for solving social and educational problems.

This is an extract from Education Insights, Spring 23/24: Education at Scale. Subscribe to read the article in full and unlock access to our quarterly insights reports.

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Growth in trusts

The needs of schools and the capacity of trusts to support them at different times have created organisations that can be challenging to oversee. There have been periods when schools came thick and fast to Ark – in one year, we had nine schools join the trust. Trusts that, by their own admission, grew too fast ended up with real logistical challenges and either put on the brakes themselves or had them applied by the DfE.

At Ark, our expansion came early on. Having opened our first school in London in 2006, we took on schools in Portsmouth and Birmingham in 2009; we started working in our newest hub, Hastings, in 2013. Testing and refining our model in different locations has taught us a lot about what works and how best to tailor our approach to the needs of local communities. We’re entering a period where we are looking to grow again, first and foremost to further develop our existing regional hubs. We only consider new areas where we are confident we’d be the right trust to meet the needs of schools that need help. …

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