Case study
9 May 2024

Bringing students closer to nature at Ark Schools

Ark Schools
A smiling pupil in the garden

As part of its Green Strategy, Ark is investing in upgrades to make its schools more energy efficient and greening school sites so students have more opportunities to connect to nature. Three schools in the network have joined the Nature Park programme: Ark Tindal and Ark Kings in Birmingham and Ark Academy in London.

Ark Schools is a network of 39 schools in London, Birmingham, Portsmouth, and Hastings. They have over 30,000 students and are committed to ensuring that every child, regardless of background or prior attainment, achieves highly enough to have real choices at age 18.

All three schools serve communities in areas of high need. Many children don’t have access to a garden at home and a high proportion are in temporary accommodation, such as hotels. Ark hopes that through its involvement in the scheme students can not only learn about their natural environment but also gain wider benefits for their wellbeing and mental health. 

Grey to green at Ark Tindal Primary Academy, Birmingham

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A smiling pupil in the garden

'We have an active gardening club and I’ve seen from that the benefits of being outdoors for our children. What’s exciting for us about the Nature Park programme is that we’re turning grey to green. We used the online resources to go around our school site taking photographs and deciding where we would love to improve an area. We chose a space where there’s quite an ugly extension and no nature at all. We’re going to add some vertical greenery there. It will give us another habitat to look at when we're doing bug hunts. And I’m also hoping it will break up the heat of the playground in the summer and improve air quality.'

Claire Smith, Operations Manager

An outdoor classroom at Ark Kings Academy, Birmingham

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Outdoor classroom area

‘We had an outdoor area for forest school that wasn’t properly maintained. Now we’re part of the Nature Park programme, our plan is to develop the area into a functioning space for learning. We have added a path so it’s accessible for everyone, created seating and planted trees. I was amazed by how much the students enjoyed the tree planting. They didn’t want to stop! For now, sessions in the space will be led by a member of staff who has done forest school training, but our longer-term plan is for all teachers to be able to deliver a lesson there. And we will use our clubs to get students involved in maintaining the area.’

Michelle Smith, Operations Manager

An allotment for the whole family at Ark Academy, London

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Pupils working together outside

‘We're lucky that we do have a lot of green space, but we don't really utilise it. I’ve used the Nature Park website to plan how we could change that. Our vision is for us to clear an area and create an allotment, with parents and grandparents coming on site to join in a regular gardening club. The aim is for every subject to have one lesson that uses gardening across the year. For example, PE could be a plant potting relay race. Maths could be making ladybug seed balls. We’re starting small and dreaming big. Even one lesson a year for each subject would mean children have 12 lessons outside. I’d also like them to have space to sit amongst nature outside lesson times. That would be great for their wellbeing.'

Tania Watts, Teacher

Over the upcoming year, Ark will work to expand its green initiatives more widely across its network of schools. It will be exciting to see these plans be realised and to learn more about the positive impacts both on students and the wider community.