Life at Ark William Parker Academy
Darrel Barsby, Assistant Principal and Alice Whitby, Head of Literacy, both relocated from London to work at Ark William Parker Academy in Hastings last year. We spoke to them about their life in Hastings and what it’s like to work at Ark William Parker.
How did you come to relocate to Hastings and work at Ark William Parker?
Darrel - I’ve been here since April 2016. Prior to that, I was Associate Assistant Principal at Ark Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton. Originally, I only came to Ark William Parker on a temporary basis, but after a month of being here, I knew this was where I wanted to be permanently. There were so many opportunities for me to be involved in big projects, such as lesson observations and performance management. I was able to gain experience whilst also putting my own stamp on things.
Alice - I joined Ark William Parker in September 2016 as Head of Literacy. Prior to that, I was working at a school in London as a Literacy Coordinator. When I first arrived, I immediately liked the atmosphere of the school, in a weird way it felt like home!
Ark William Parker Academy is an all boys’ school. What are your students like?
Darrel - The school itself has got a good atmosphere. The boys are lovely. They have a really positive attitude towards learning, they’re engaged and they want to be here. With my background as a boys’ PE teacher, I was used to teaching just boys, but I’ve been surprised by how much I like teaching at a boys’ school. I didn’t know if I would, but I really enjoy it.
Alice - I’m the same. Previously I’d always taught at co-ed schools, so thought it might be strange teaching at a boys’ school, but I don’t really notice it! Our students are hilarious! They’re vibrant and love being taught. They’re very proud to be Ark William Parker students.
What about the staff?
Alice - The staff at Ark William Parker are great. The whole leadership team are very encouraging. Our Regional Director, Jane Fletcher, is phenomenal to work for, I’ve become a much stronger leader because of her. My Head of English is really experienced too, she knows exactly what to do, how to cope with curriculum changes and how to support us as a team.
Darrel - The school has got a fresh, energetic, new leadership team. Everybody’s got bags of energy and is committed to improving the school. It’s a cohesive team and everyone works well together.
Alice - It’s not just the leadership - our Learning Support Assistants and Teaching Assistants have lots of experience and know the school and the students so well - I’m learning a lot from them.
Darrel - We’re a close team, but one thing I really like about working at Ark William Parker is being given the freedom to do my job. I'm trusted to do my job well. Of course, I check in with my line manager and the Principal, but largely, I’m given big responsibilities and allowed to do them in my own way.
What does Ark William Parker have to offer its staff?
Alice – There’s so much support here. It’s geared towards helping you and the school get better. It’s great being part of the Ark network, there are people at the central office who have already done your job, so can give you the help and guidance you need. I’m learning something every day here. Whilst being supported, there’s also a lot of autonomy in my role, I’m trusted to know what I’m doing.
Darrel - The support and professional development here at Ark William Parker is very good. We have a thorough induction process to make sure all new staff feel supported and welcomed. As well as a detailed booklet containing key documents about the school, the staff, and our way of working, we offer an ‘aftercare’ package to make sure everyone settles in. This includes morning practice sessions, weekly professional development, additional drop-in sessions on topics such as literacy and support and guidance from a member of the SLT to ensure everything is going well.
Alice - There’s a strong focus on professional development at the school. Every Wednesday afternoon we have CPD sessions and the topics can vary from co-planning to assessment software. Regardless of the subject, they’re always practical and helpful. The school is dedicated to career progression. As a middle leader, I’m being nurtured and prepared to take a step up to Assistant Principal. I like that there’s a clear career path for me and I can see where I’m going.
Tell us about Hastings? What’s it like to live here?
Darrel - Hastings has a lot to offer. There’s so much history and culture, from castles to abbeys to museums. The town has lots of nice restaurants, bars and a great live music scene. There’s always something going on – the seafood festival has been my favourite so far!
Alice - Yeah, it’s really cool actually. The restaurants are great here and the old town is absolutely stunning. There are still loads of cool things I’m slowly finding out about the town. I’m loving living by the sea, it’s really good for you and I feel genuinely happier.
Darrel- I also found I enjoyed living in Hastings. London can be quite stressful and full-on, not that it isn’t like that here at times, but I have a better work-life balance now. I also have a better quality of life, I was able to buy a house, a car and live by the sea – you don’t get that opportunity very often!
Alice - Another plus of living in Hastings - I live just a 10-minute drive from the school! Which is a big difference to my hour commute on public transport I had in London!
What would you say to someone considering a career in Hastings with Ark?
Darrel - With regards to the town itself, there’s a strong sense of community in Hastings. In London, no-one talks to you, but here everyone is really friendly and polite. I joined one of the local sports clubs, and before I knew, everyone became my mates!
Alice - I’d definitely recommend moving to Hastings. You feel like you’re really part of something here, both as part of the town and the school. I took the leap and it totally paid off.
Darrel - Ark William Parker in particular is a really interesting place to work and I believe it’s capable of something quite special. We’re not there yet, but we are getting there and I don’t think it’ll be too long. If you really want to make a difference, work with enthusiastic and energetic leaders, and be able to see progress happening every day, then this is the school for you.
Interested in working at Ark William Parker Academy? View our current vacancies.