Celebrating Pupil Progress

As our parents will know, at Spark Academy we have just finished completing our Spring term assessments. Although we see progress every lesson when we see our students, we understand that it’s important for students and parents to see progress in test scores too – both at Spark and at school.

We have been very proud of our students this term. Across the board we have seen improvement from last term in every class – and some of our students have absolutely outdone themselves!

 

Which students have progressed the most?

 

While all of our students have progressed, it’s always nice to celebrate a few individuals or classes. Spark Ideas would like to say a big congratulations to:

 

 

Radhika (Year 5 at Belgrave)

 

Radhika has worked very hard since joining Spark in the Autumn term. She has progressed fantastically well in her sentence writing and understanding of spelling, punctuation and grammar, as well as making big strides in her Maths work. Her determination to succeed is definitely paying off!

 

 

Maya-Diyaa (Year 4 at Belgrave)

 

Maya-Diya has made great strides in her spelling and reading comprehension since she joined Spark. Her hard work has been supporting her both at Spark and at school – keep it up!

 

Eshaan (Year 3 at Oadby)

 

Eshaan never fails to be positive during his lessons at Spark and has worked exceptionally hard to improve his own understanding of literacy and numeracy. Eshaan’s hard work has been noticed both here and at school – his teacher has been impressed by his improved number skills and his understanding of similes!

 

Our Entire Year 4 Oadby Class

 

Yes, the whole class! This group of students have worked consistently throughout this term to improve their understanding. In English specifically, every student made a significant improvement from last term – before Christmas most were finding spelling, punctuation and grammar difficult, but through dedication the whole class has come on in leaps and bounds. Well done Year 4!

 

Adnan (Year 10 Oadby)

 

Adnan is an individual who is totally determined to succeed in his GCSEs next year. He consistently puts in 100% every week and in every homework, which is helping his progression enormously. In his tests at school, Adnan has already improved by almost two full grades since October. Congratualations Adnan and keep it up!

 

Rahul (Year 11 Belgrave)

 

Rahul is a student who has really sat up and took notice this term – he has begun working hard in lessons and submitting homework every week, which has made a big difference to his work. He is progressing well and on his way towards achieving his target grades when he sits his exams in a few weeks.

 

Congratulations to all of our pupils who have made progress this term – we look forward to celebrating you again soon!

Teacher Talk: Lively Literature

This week’s Teacher Talk is all about literature – specifically thinking about our Year 7 classes, who have just finished a topic on A Christmas Carol.

 

 

Why study A Christmas Carol?

 

Charles Dickens is one of the most well-known writers in English Literature and A Christmas Carol is one of his most famous works. The novella is chosen by many schools as a GCSE text to study in Year 10 and 11, which makes it a perfect choice for our Year 7s. Not only does studying the book at Spark help them to understand the content ready to study it further in future, but it also gives the students a great chance to start analysing nineteenth-century literature. Language was a little bit different in the 1800s, which many students find tough at first. However, after a few weeks all of our Year 7s were making leaps and bounds in understanding the novella!

Our classes took a tour of everything important about the novel. This included the plot, the characters, the context and how to start answering an exam-style question…

One of the most interesting areas we looked at was context. Our groups really enjoyed learning about the little differences between how we live and how people lived in the 19th century. In particular, we had lots of discussions on how the treatment of the poor then was very different to now – and all agreed we’d rather live in our time then theirs!

 

Creative Character Discussion

 

Another fascinating part of A Christmas Carol is the characters. All of our students studied the main characters in the novel. These included Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the three Ghosts.

One class, taught by Charlotte, decided they were going to take on the role of teacher themselves. The students were each given one character from A Christmas Carol and were given the task to create a mind map discussing their characters attributes.

 

 

They then created their mind map on the board, whilst teaching the rest of the class facts about their character. The class then made notes on these facts and began to build up a better understanding of the characters in the text.

 

 

Each student then had a range of characters that they understand in excellent detail. They also demonstrated their higher level thinking skills. They were able to understand, condense and re-explain information to their fellow students.
This kind of activity is fantastic to get students reading, analysing and pushing to develop their understanding of a text. Characters are a very significant part of any literature; our students proved to be experts in analysing them!

Teacher Talk: Understanding Literature

This week’s Teacher Talk is from our English teachers. Literature is an important aspect of studying English, but for many students reading something written almost 100 years ago can be a little off-putting. Our teachers share some of their ideas for bringing great novels to life in tuition.

 

Why do we study literature at Spark?

 

Literature isn’t just important because it’s on the GCSE curriculum. Reading is a way of thinking about the world in a different way. This can be especially important when thinking about history. Many of the novels studied in schools are chosen because of their important place within history and Animal Farm is no exception.

 

 

Why Animal Farm?

 

Most of our Year 9 students had never heard of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. That is, until we started studying it at the beginning of January. Now they not only know what happens during the novella, but they’ve also started to understand the difference between communism, socialism and capitalism. They’ve explored the impact of propaganda and thought critically about their own political ideas. And of course they’ve sharpened their analytical and writing skills!

 

How does studying a novel work at Spark?

 

As we teach our students once a week for English, we aren’t able to read through the whole text in class. What we can do though, is look at important extracts that demonstrate the key themes and characters.

We started our study of Animal Farm by exploring the key themes and how they are presented in the text.

 

 

We looked at context and the main characters involved in the novel.

 

Students did their own research into some of the key terms at home before we looked at more detailed context together.

 

It was important for the students to understand how the characters in Animal Farm parallel the real-life politicians during the Russian Revolution.

Most recently we looked at the use of propaganda in the novel. We used this as an opportunity to consider how each of us would run a farm. Our student wrote a speech and created a poster campaign to showcase their ideas.

Students peer-marked each others speeches to think about their use of persuasive techniques. They also check spelling, punctuation and grammar.

 

Some tables worked as a group to share ideas on their slogan and logo, before creating their own poster.

 

Slogans and main campaign points definitely stand out here!

 

Lots of colour helps the campaign points stand out on this poster. You can see where another student has peer-marked this speech in purple pen.

 

We try to make our lessons engaging and interactive for our students. By introducing creativity and asking our students to question their own ideas, we encourage them not only to explore the text we’re studying but to examine it place in their lives. Showcasing your plan for running ‘Animal Farm’ is a good way of understanding how the themes and characters in the novel realistically relate to your own life.

 

Are you interested in reading Animal Farm? You can read it online here.

Teacher Talk: Countdown to Christmas!

In this week’s Teacher Talk we asked the Maths department to give us a taste of some of the fun things they do at Christmas. One fun starter or plenary is playing Countdown – let’s have a look at how they do it.

Onto the Countdown to Christmas!

On behalf of the Maths department at Spark, we’ve decided to give you all some gifts that only a maths teacher can give;

Countdown Puzzles!

 

How do you play Countdown?

 

We give you a target number and 6 numbers to work with… The aim is to make the target number and you can only use each of the 6 numbers once.

At Spark, we always give worked examples in our Maths lessons, so this will be no different!

So for the first puzzle, we have these numbers:

 

 

So we need to use the numbers 100, 25, 1, 7, 10 and 7 to get to the grand total of 510.

 

Have a go yourself and see what answer your get!

 

 

It looks like Chris got the right answer! Hope you did too!

 

Let’s try another one!

 

 

Before you scroll down to see if Chris has figured it out… Can you get to the target number? Comment if you managed it!

 

 

Whoops! Chris was only one away from the final answer! So near, yet so far! Could you get the right number?

Oh dear, it looks like Chris is struggling with this next one. I think we should leave this one to you guys to have a go at yourself! Comment below with your closest answer and method!

 

Happy Christmas everyone, don’t forget to enjoy some pi over the festive season!

Parent Perspectives: Raves in our Reviews

In this week’s Parent Perspectives post, we thought we’d look somewhere a little different than usual. Many parents have been rating and posting reviews for Spark Academy for years – it’s time we celebrated their views!

 

Where can you rate and review?

 

Spark’s Facebook page is a perfect place for anyone looking to give us a rating or write a review. In fact, many parents have been doing just that! You might also know that we recently launched our Spark Forum. This is another amazing place where you can review or leave comments for the Spark team. You can even give us suggestions on how we could make Spark even better.

 

 

So now you know where you can go to rate, review and rave about us…

 

What sort of things have our parents been saying?

 

The first fantastic point we noticed when we looked at our Facebook reviews is that we have an amazing 5 star rating! This rating is averaged out over the years since our first Facebook review, which just goes to show that Spark is providing the same high quality tuition it has since opening.

 

 

Here are some highlights from our favourite reviews. It was tricky to choose from some many wonderful comments from our parents!

 

My boys will be joining this great teaching academy soon in January 2018. They will be working to their school level […] Spark Academy is far better – classroom based and a more professional set up.

P. S.

We strive to provide excellent tuition to support our students in their education, so it is always wonderful to hear that parents can see and appreciate everything we are doing!

 

The support has been priceless […] A designated time to study is key in getting excellent results. I knew I needed a great tutor service and was so pleased when Spark was recommended to me by a friend.

N. W.

Recommendations are another fantastic way so many of our parents review Spark. It’s great to hear that from their perspective, we’re so good they just can’t wait to tell others!

 

It’s clear to see the passion you have to teach and the desire to make every child a winner. I can’t fault anything you guys do. My kids love coming to Spark and they’re making great progress.

B. P.

Our small class sizes are key to our ability to make every child feel successful and vital to our lessons. And we’re always glad to hear our students enjoy coming to Spark!

 

How can you get involved?

 

If you’re a parent and you want to share your perspective on Spark, there are lots of ways to get involved. You can use our Facebook page, our Spark Forum, or you can comment on this post with your reviews!

What are Mital’s Top Ten Tips for Success?

Spark Academy’s founder Mital Thanki is obviously very successful. Otherwise Spark wouldn’t be doing so well! Earlier this year, Mital wrote an article for The Eastern Eye about her ‘Top Ten Tips for Success’. We thank the Eastern Eye for letting us use some of her ideas to share with you today!

 

1. Turn Big Dreams into Goals!

 

 

All good businesses start with an idea. Then a lot of thought and planning is needed to turn your big dream into reality. This is only possible when you set goals for yourself and plan on how you are going to get there. By breaking your big dreams into small goals, you can structure your plan and help to form your strategy for the future.

 

2. Turn your Passion into Profession

 

Don’t let money be your only driving factor. Confucius said

 

Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life

 

This is a motto I live by. If you are passionate about your work, you will continue to work at it even through the hard times. Eventually, your drive, passion and enthusiasm will be noticed. It’s people who recognise the importance of loving what you do who achieve the most success.

3. Believe in your Ideas and Go with your Gut

 

It’s essential that you trust your instincts. This is how you will take your business from strength to strength. At Spark Academy, we shout out about all of our successes – big and small! It’s important to me that our parents and students know what our vision is and how close we are to achieving it.

 

4. Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices

 

Owning your own business, yet challenging. Successful people will sacrifice personal and social time to build their business. You might need to be prepared to sacrifice your financial stability, your work-life balance and your comfort. However, you should remember that after a few years your hard work will really start to pay off.

 

5. Learn from Failures and Never Give Up

 

Making mistakes is an important lesson that gives you an opportunity to start again with more experience. Failing is just one step on the road to meeting your challenges head on. Don’t let struggles put you off your goals. Instead, think of it like a learning opportunity – it creates stepping stones on the way to greatness.

 

6. Be the Best in Your Field

 

Dedicate a part of your working time to your own professional development. Take time out to network, study the competition, attend courses and conferences. If you talk about the hot topics in your field, you will enhance your credibility and get yourself noticed. Spark Academy is the proud winner of several local and national awards – this is an indication of how dedicate we are to being the best.

 

7. Look after Your Team

 

Unless you are the only one working in your business, your team is the most important piece of your organisation. Have fun and develop a culture of compassion and love for one another. Celebrate small wins and encourage friendships. This helps to create a positive environment to work and thrive.

 

8. Maintain Discipline

 

Planning your daily tasks is essential when trying to kick-start or grow a venture. You must invest time into this and make it work for you. Know yourself and work when you are most productive. Remain committed to a timetable and maintain your routine.

 

9. Listen to Your Body

 

It’s important to know your signs of burn-out. When you are running on empty, feeling anxious or overwhelmed, remind yourself that you’re human. You’re not a machine! Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat well. Try meditating or keep a hobby to help recharge you after a difficult week.

 

10. Keep Your Vision Alive

 

Your vision is what you will build all of your success around. Take time to write a clear vision statement. Create a vision board filled with pictures, quotes and key words that highlight your ideas. The work you do needs to reflect your vision. You can help yourself achieve this by surrounding yourself by people who contribute to your success. Never lose faith and just keep going!

The Spark: Christmas, Calendars and Charity

Tuesday is news-day and this week’s edition of The Spark is here to introduce Spark Academy’s charity work.

Christmas, Calendars and Charity

Spark Academy founder Mital Thanki has always hoped that one day she will be able to take the education offered at Spark to children with little or no access to education. Moreover, a charity consciousness is at the heart of Spark Academy. It is unsurprising then that as the Spark team has grown, so has the desire to do more charity work in Leicester.

 

 

Will all of Spark Academy be involved?

 

All of the staff at Spark Academy will be doing their part in charity work over the course of the year. Nicola Hey, Head of Science, has picked up the role of Charity Coordinator. This is because charity work is close to Nic’s heart. This is as she has raised money for various different charities in the past.

 

Nic before a sponsored abseil in Derby.

 

Spark Academy also hopes that their students will get involved as much as possible. It is clear the almost 400 students will be able to make a big difference in their community and beyond. However, the Spark community is not just the staff and students. Nic and the rest of the Spark team look forward to parents joining in too.

 

What charities will Spark Academy be supporting?

 

The Spark team have voted to support Rainbows Hospice over the course of the 2017-2018 academic year. Rainbows cares for children with a limited life expectancy and supports their families at a very difficult time. You can find out more about the work Rainbows do and how to support them by clicking the link above.

 

 

However, Spark Academy will still support other charities and causes wherever possible. If you know of charity events you think the Spark team and community should get involved with, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Charity at Christmas

 

Spark Academy’s first big charity event is the Christmas jumper week from Monday 11th-Friday 15th December 2017. During this week, staff will be wearing Christmas jumpers or fancy dress all week and are urging students to do the same. This is all to raise money to support Gem 106’s Mission Christmas. You can read more about the charity by visiting their website.

Mission Christmas is to support families in the East Midlands who live in poverty. There are lots of children in the East Midlands who will not have any presents to open on Christmas Day. All of the money raised by Spark Academy during this week will go to Mission Christmas to support these families and to make Christmas brighter for children in poverty. If you would like to take part, we just ask that you bring a small donation with you to your tuition session.

If you would prefer to support Spark’s charity efforts in a different way, we are also collecting donations for a ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’ in aid of the Y. The Y supports homeless teenagers and young people. Necessities like deodorant, toothpaste and toothbrushes make up the ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’. Most people take these items for granted. However, they are a huge help and often a huge cost for young people who are homeless. You can see more information about the Y and the type of donations that can help here.

 

 

Spark Academy will be promoting and supporting these charities throughout December.

Who was November’s Top Sparkie?

 

As you know, at Spark we like to celebrate one member of staff each month for going above and beyond to help the whole team. This month’s Top Sparkie is no different…

 

Why did we vote for this month’s Top Sparkie?

 

Before we reveal who this month’s winner was… Let’s have a look at some of the lovely things the rest of the team had to say.

 

helpful, patient and kind

 

helpful and always cheers everyone up by making us smile

 

This month’s employee of the month is valued for lots of reasons. These reasons aren’t just for the work they do but for the contribution they make to the morale and motivation of the whole Spark team.

 

But who actually won?

 

This month’s winner came from Spark’s admin department. She:

 

truly is the Chief Happiness Officer!

 

and one of the other reasons given for nominated her was for her

 

always being positive and working longer than necessary in the evening

 

This staff member works hard every day to help parents and students with any questions they have. This month has been no exception, even though the admin department has had a lot of changes. Most of you know that this month Spark welcomed Barbara to the team. Our Top Sparkie has worked through

 

lots of admin changes this month and she has worked hard to keep everything running smoothly

 

And the winner is…

 

The Spark team nominated our fantastic admin assistant Nidhi Rana as our Employee of the Month for October! Her continuous devotion to her role and hard work has not gone unnoticed. Nidhi is one of the keystones of Spark, holding lots of pieces in place to keep the whole business running successfully. And she does it all with a smile and a positive attitude!

 

 

Keep up the good work Nidhi!

 

 

Headteacher Talk: What Can Finland Teach Us About Education?

As we approach the end of the month, it’s time to hear from our Headteacher Gemma. She has been thinking about what we at Spark can learn about education from others. That could be schools, other professionals, and even other countries…

 

What makes Finland’s education system different?

 

Finland’s educational system underwent reforms about 40 years ago. Since then, they have consistently come at the top end of the world rankings for education. It is only recently, however, that they have been making waves in the world of education. With comparisons being made to our own educational system in the UK, are there lessons to be learned?

In Finland, a child starts school in the year that they turn 7 and remain in compulsory education for 9 years. This basic education is provided within a single structure, there is no divide between primary and secondary education. It is only in the last 3 years of their education that students are taught by subject specialists. There are no National tests for students in Finland. Instead, teachers are responsible for all assessment. There is just one exam at the end of the 9 years of study that will be the same for all students.  This is in stark contrast to our own system in the UK. Here, students as young as 6 will be entered for testing. There results measure the progress of the students throughout the whole of their academic journey.

 

 

So what about the ethos?

 

One task of education in Finland is to develop a student’s ability to self-assess, to support the growth of self-knowledge and study skills and to help make student’s aware of their own progress.  This is something very close to our hearts at Spark.  We commit to supporting our students, not only in their study and learning of specific content, but also in developing their independence and resilience in learning.

It is not only the students that are the focus of education in Finland, teachers have a very different experience than many in the UK. Teachers in Finland are held in the same esteem as lawyers and doctors. They are seen as the keys to quality education. As a result, they spend 2 hours a week on their own professional development. As you are probably aware, teachers in the UK are also currently in the news, but for very different reasons. More teachers are leaving the profession than are joining, with much of this down to workload and pressures from league tables (something which is absent in Finland).

 

 

Why is the Finnish system important to us?

 

At Spark, we too, believe that our teachers are the key to a student’s success. They are responsible for producing our bespoke resources and assessments. This allows them to concentrate on how they deliver the lesson in the best possible way for their students to learn. It is also important for us to allow for professional development. Our teachers continually look at teaching strategies and research other areas in education.

Looking at the Finnish system has drawn comparisons with our own ethos here at Spark. However, only time will tell if our schools will follow a similar path…

 

The Spark: November’s Newest Sparkie

 

Tuesday is news-day at Spark Academy. This week’s article introduces Spark Academy’s newest member, Barbara Herbert.

November’s Newest Sparkie

The Growing Team

 

In October 2017, it became apparent that the usual influx of new students at the beginning of a new term was still going strong. Founder Mital Thanki and the rest of the team were thrilled by the interest of so many students. However, the demand on Spark Academy’s administration team continued to increase. It quickly became clear that the admin team needed to grow at the same rate as Spark’s student base.

Mital decided to hire another admin assistant. Therefore, in November Spark welcomed a new member of the team. Barbara Herbert joined Spark Academy from a school-based background.

 

Barbara (top left) in her first outing with the Spark Academy team before starting officially a few weeks later.

 

Background in Education

 

Barbara has worked in education for over ten years in various roles. Her roles began in the science department, where she worked as a Senior Science Technician for six years. More recently, Barbara also worked as an Inclusion Officer for four years. This involved running an alternative classroom for students with various emotional, physical and behavioural needs.

Barbara has previously worked closely with pupil premium students and vulnerable students. She supported these students with struggles in their school and home lives. Barbara told The Spark that her role as an Inclusion Officer included

 

raising students’ confidence by working closely with each individual.

 

What can Spark Academy offer Barbara?

 

Barbara chose to join Spark Academy to focus on education in a different way. She hopes to support students in their educational journey and in moving to the next chapter of their lives.

 

I enjoy working with the Spark team. Everyone is very friendly and they made me feel welcome. I am looking forward to my journey with Spark and to watch it grow and develop into something very special.