Tim Henman Foundation

Opportunity Fund with Ark Academy, Putney

Funding extra-curricular educational opportunities for students who require additional support

What Is The Issue?

Following on from the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been widely documented that the cohorts of young people moving through their secondary and post-16 education are not yet at the level of their peers who sat similar exams pre-COVID.  Furthermore, children from low income families are three times more likely not to participate in any extra-curricular activities such as sports, music and arts, compared to those from wealthier families.  Many of this year’s GCSE students missed large blocks of their education during their initial secondary school experience and especially during the start of their GCSE courses; almost 25% of students across all year groups in England missed at least 10% of available sessions due to the pandemic.

The Ark Academy Putney is a secondary school and sixth form based in Wandsworth and is one of a network of 39 schools in the UK run by Ark (Absolute Return for Kids).  It is located in one of the 40% most deprived areas of England with a free school meal rate of 50.6% which is well above the national average of 23.8%.

The Opportunity Fund

The THF Opportunity Fund provides funding for extra-curricular educational opportunities for those students who require extra support with their schoolwork.  THF partnered with Ark Putney at the start of the 2023/24 school year to improve the outcomes for students in Year 11 in the core subjects of English, Maths and Science.  All these students have been working towards their mock GCSEs in the Spring of 2024 and their formal GCSE exams in the Summer of 2024.

The funding for the programme enabled in-house subject teachers from Ark Putney who already knew their students well to tutor these extra classes, giving them the opportunity to make a marked difference to the outcome for their students as well as earning extra funds themselves. The school chose 10 students for each of the 3 core subjects based on their ‘Autumn 2’ data.  All students received weekly sessions and 1 day intensive tuition over the February half term.  Maths tuition was delivered both in person and via access to the Mytutor platform, and English and Science tuition were delivered by engaging the school’s own teaching staff.  All students attending the extra sessions were in receipt of free school meals and 60% had some form of additional needs.

Students have been overwhelmingly positive about the programme. One said: ‘My tutor helps me to practise maths questions and the tutors explain things really well’ and another student said: ‘It allows me to delve deeper into topics that I am less confident in and helps me catch up with my class’.

One application, making a big difference...

Following the February 2024 GCSE mock exams, 100% of the 30 students made at least 1 grade’s worth of progress from ‘Autumn 2’ to ‘Spring 2’ grades and overall have engaged very well with the extra lessons.  For some of these students, it has now given them the opportunity to achieve at least a grade 4 in Maths and English in the Summer exams which will enable them to access more further education courses than they could do before.  For other students, it has meant a deepening knowledge and an ability to push for higher grades than expected, which will allow them on to A level courses.

In Maths, the total number of grades of progress overall from the 10 students from ‘Autumn 2’ to ‘Spring 2’ was 14 grades, broken down as follows:  

  • 70% increased by 1 grade
  • 20% increased by 2 grades
  • 10% increased by 3 grades

In English, the total grade increase from the 10 students was also 14 grades overall, broken down as follows: 

  • 60% increased by 1 grade
  • 40% increased by 2 grades

In Science, which is double-award so counts as 2 separate GCSEs, the students improved by 23 grades overall, broken down as follows:

  • 20% increased by 1 grade on 1 GCSE (1-0)
  • 40% increased by 1 grade on 2 GCSEs (1-1)
  • 30% increased by 2 grades and 1 grade on each GCSE (2-1 or 1-2)
  • 10% increased by 2 grades on both GCSEs (2-2)

Ark Putney’s Head of Year 11 said: ‘ Year 11 students have thrived in their intervention sessions. It has enabled them to receive tailored and bespoke intervention sessions which are challenging to deliver at scale in a normal classroom environment. The students are overwhelmingly positive about the effects on their learning and parents see the value in it, encouraging them to consistently attend their sessions’.

This programme will carry on during the Summer term where it is hoped that each student will be able to consolidate their grades so far, or even exceed them.  More data will be collected after GCSE results day in August 2024, but in the meantime THF is wishing these students and all their contemporaries the very best of luck for their upcoming GCSEs.



Information and statistics used in this case study have been taken from:

 https://www.gov.uk/   https://feweek.co.uk/  https://arkputney.org/