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Our history

Ark was founded in 2002 with the mission to have the biggest possible impact on the lives of children – especially those that had been historically left behind. Over the years, a research-led approach and entrepreneurial mindset has meant our projects and partnerships ranged widely, both in terms of interest area and location. Our legacy and history gives a sense of the span and impact of our work as well as how we arrived at our focus on education and schools.

The Ark timeline

We celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2022 and took the opportunity to look back at our history and capture the story of the 20+ legacy ventures we have supported.

2002: The early years

Ark grew out of a project to encourage philanthropic giving from the hedge fund sector. The new charity raised millions in the first years and gave broadly to a range of projects focused on child protection and health including:

  • A partnership with Hope and Homes for Children to remove children from large scale institutions – changing the lives of more than 20,000 children in Romania and Bulgaria.
  • A HIV/AIDS programme in South Africa that, through local partner Kheth’Impilo, continues to have a significant impact on the lives of vulnerable children today.
  • A partnership with the Elizabeth Glazer Paediatric AIDS Foundation in Mozambique which set up and tested an innovative SMS reminder service to HIV-positive parents, carers and children. The programme reached over 30,000 patients.
2006: The first school

While a broad range of international work continued, Ark was increasingly interested in education and the possibilities of the new academy programme which offered a way for philanthropists to support turnaround schools in some of the most deprived communities in England. Ark’s first turnaround school – Burlington Danes Academy in West London opened under its new name in September.


Building a wider expertise in education, Ark also started supporting a schools leadership training programme called Future Leaders and started funding an extended school programme pilot that would eventually grow into our music and other extracurricular programmes.

2007: Ark India launches

King Solomon Academy, a new primary in Edgware opened and Ark took on another converter academy – Ark Walworth Academy in Southwark.

The early success of Future Leaders led to the foundation of School Leaders for India pilot programme which was launched in Mumbai and Pune. Work on health programmes continued and a new strategic health initiative partnership was launched between Ark and the Clinton Foundation in Mozambique.

2008: Teaching leadership and more schools

In a bumper year, Ark opened two new schools in London (Ark Academy and Ark Evelyn Grace) as well as taking on another converting school which became known as Ark Globe. Teaching Leaders, a training programme for mid-level school leadership based on the Future Leaders model, was founded and Ark in India launched to create a fast-track school leadership training scheme.

2009: Ark and music – the first gala

The first ever Ark music gala ‘One Voice’ was held at the Barbican Centre, showcasing the impact of the music programme in schools. Ark schools expanded outside of London for the first time, taking on two converter schools: Charter Academy in Portsmouth and St Alban’s in Birmingham. King Solomon Academy in Edgware also opened its secondary, making the school all-through.

Later that year, the HIV/AIDS programme in South Africa became the first health initiative handed over to a local partner, Kheth’Impilo.

2010: Supporting maternal health

In another busy year, four schools extended or opened new buildings to students and the secondary phase of Ark Academy in London opened, creating another all-through school.

Ark supported a pilot programme to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in Zimbabwe and supported learning and voucher programmes in India to increase access.

2011: Mathematics Mastery

Ark won the International Aid and Development award at the annual UK Charity Awards this year for work in Bulgaria helping children out of institutional care.

In September three new primary schools in London – Conway, Oval and Atwood were all opened.

The Education Endowment Foundation also funded a major grant to roll out the Mathematics Mastery programme, a new initiative to improve numeracy developed by Ark, to 30 schools both inside and outside the network.

2012: Ark grows to 15 schools

This year saw the launch of the first comprehensive diarrhoea programme in Sub-Saharan Africa in Zambia with the local Centre for Infectious Disease Research (CIDRZ) after 18 months of planning. Ark also launched a new public-private partnership initiative in Uganda which opened its first two secondary schools.

Ark also became a founding partner of STiR which aimed to promote grassroots innovation by dynamic teachers and schools to transform educational outcomes for the world’s poorest children starting with a pilot in Delhi. Teaching Leaders span out from Ark, now able to sustain itself as an independent charity.

It was also another big growth year with Ark taking on five converting schools. Two were in London: Ark Bentworth Academy in Hammersmith and Ark Putney in Wandsworth. We also grew our Birmingham hub taking on three turnaround schools which became known as Ark Kings Academy, Ark Tindal and Ark Rose Primary Academy. We also opened two brand new schools – Ark Bolingbroke in Wandsworth and Ark Isaac Newton Academy in Ilford.

To meet our growing demand for new teachers, we also launched the Ark Teacher Training programme in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University, while in Mozambique we formally handed over our programme supporting HIV positive patients to the local Ministry of Health.

2013: Hubs expand

In the biggest ever year for new school expansion, the Ark network grew again, taking on seven turnaround schools and two new schools. These included our first school in Hastings and another in Portsmouth seeding a new hub on the south coast: Ark All Saints in Camberwell, Ark Franklin in Kensal Green, Ark John Keats in Enfield, Ark Ayrton in Portsmouth, Ark Brunel in North Kensington, Ark Swift in White City, Priory in Acton and Ark Alexandra in Hastings. Helpfully to support this dramatic growth, Ark Teacher Training was accredited to award Qualified Teacher Status to trainee teachers.

Outside of the UK, the rotavirus vaccination programme, piloted by Ark and its partners in Zambia, rolled out nationally by the Zambian government.

2014: Launch of social work charity

Having seen the impact of child social care through the work of our schools, Ark decided to incubate new social work charity Frontline. The first cohort of 104 Frontline trainee social workers begin their training this year at the same time as the first cohort of 51 Ark teacher trainees.

Ark grew again, taking on another three primary turnaround schools on the south coast. Ark Blacklands and Ark Little Ridge both in Hastings and Ark Dickens in Portsmouth. In London, Ark Elvin, a secondary turnaround school in Wembley, joined the network, as Ark John Keats expanded into a secondary phase.

Outside of the UK, Ark partner PEAS opened three new schools in Uganda and the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh adopted Ark’s school inspection programme.

2015: First primary in India

After an impressive first year of operations, social work charity Frontline span out to become an independent charity. Ark also created a joint venture with the NEON Foundation to support the development of Assembly, a new tool for school data.

Ark took on two new turnaround schools in Birmingham: Ark Boulton and Ark Chamberlain. Ark Burlington Danes expanded to take on an existing primary school and Ark Byron opened in Acton.

In India, Ark opened its first primary school, Ark Lajpat Nagar in Delhi, in partnership with the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

2016: Now Teach launch

During this year, there were some big developments in Ark Ventures. STiR Education transitioned to full independence and now operates in India, Uganda, Indonesia and Ethiopia. It has reached more than 200,000 teachers and six million children across India and Uganda. Ambition School Leadership formed through a merger between Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders Trust, and we began incubating Now Teach which was set-up to help career-changers retrain as teachers.

Ark Paddington Green, another turnaround primary, opened.

2017: EdCity – a new home for Ark

Ark India, now operating as Peepul opened two new schools in Amar Colony and Jeevan Nagar while in Hastings a third Ark turnaround primary, Ark Castledown, opened.

Having realised that Ark would need a new home, the ambitious EdCity project was conceived and kicked off.

2018: Business as usual

As the plans for the EdCity project developed, Ark’s network continued to grow. Ark Victoria joined the growing Birmingham hub while in London, Ark Acton, Ark Greenwich Free School, and Ark John Archer in Clapham all joined the network.

2019: Mastery finds a new home in Ark Curriculum Plus

With the location of EdCity now confirmed, the Ark network team moved to While City. There were several mergers of schools to build our all-through capacity and Ark also opened Ark Pioneer in Barnet.

Again, our ventures continued to free organisations to independence while taking on new projects. Assembly, the school data venture, transferred to an established provider of services to schools so that it could scale further. The Ambition Institute also launched following merger of Ambition School Leadership and Institute for Teaching. Peepul, formerly Ark India, became independent of Ark and Ark Curriculum Plus was created following the merger of Mathematics Mastery and English Mastery.

2020: The pandemic response

Like everyone else, this year was dominated by Covid. In a stroke of good fortune, Ark’s curriculum programmes migrated onto a new digital platform, My Mastery and Ark was able to contribute significant content to Oak Academy and other partners to make sure learning resources were readily available to students in the network and beyond. A major fundraising push also supported the provision of digital devices.

Despite these challenges, Ark Blake opened that September in Croydon, and the first Ark Start nursery was launched at Ark John Archer in Battersea. Now Teach also spun out as an independent charity.

2021: Rebuilding and closing the learning gap

The pandemic, and eventually the recovery from Covid, continued to dominate our work. We launched a major fundraising drive, with donations matched by the government’s coronavirus fund. This focused on interventions designed to close learning gaps, improve mental health, and continue to support the provision of digital devices for all students in year four and above to ensure access to remote learning opportunities.

Another new school, Ark Soane, opened in London and the second Ark Start nursery opened at Ark Oval, Croydon.

2022: Ark at 20

Coming after the challenges of the pandemic, the 20th anniversary of the charity was marked with a series of events and celebrations. Despite a pause due to the changing economic conditions, the EdCity project was well underway with building of the school, youth centre, office block and first houses commencing.

Sixteen years after the charity had opened its first school in England, by 2022, Ark was running 39 schools serving over 30,000 children across Birmingham, Hastings, London and Portsmouth.

2023: A new venture for Ark Ventures

The EdCity development continued apace with the ‘topping out’ of the office block and the opening of the new Ark White City school building providing big milestones in the year.

The Education Partnerships Group, which had been set-up to provide not-for-profit consultancy to governments looking to strengthen their education systems was spun out into a series of legacy programmes that were taken on by local partners.

In fact, the scale and breadth of Ark Ventures had reached such a scale that a new charity was set-up.

Purposeful Ventures was created as a specialist ventures organisation focusing on education and issues affecting children and young people.