Schools

Barran: Investment firms ‘lecturing’ government on Oak ‘sticks in throat’

Academies minister says quango will not 'distort' curriculum and is a 'strategic investment' amid Lords questioning

Academies minister says quango will not 'distort' curriculum and is a 'strategic investment' amid Lords questioning

Baroness Barran

The government is not “distorting the curriculum” by setting up Oak National Academy, a minister has said, hitting back at private equity firms who it was claimed are now “put off” investing in ed tech.

Lord Knight, a former education minister, said today he regularly hears “from private equity investors that they are put off investing in education resources” in England becausethe government has made Oak a quango.

Knight, a board member at ed tech firm Century-Tech, told the House of Lords the firms thought Oak was a “distortion caused by the government clumsily entering the market at scale”.

But speaking during a House of Lords debate, academies minister Baroness Barran said it “sticks in my throat” to have “private equity investors who are responsible for considerable distortions in the children’s homes markets lecturing the government on distortions in the ed tech market”.

The chair of a government review into private children’s home providers found the market in England is broken and too many children are being failed. But the largest providers are making millions in profit.

Amid critical questioning, Barran added the government is “not distorting the curriculum” as they know “teachers will make the best judgement” on what students need. She added Oak was a “strategic investment” for the “next many years”.

“I challenge the House for the questions that the House would be posing to the department if we weren’t investing in digital resources for children,” Barran said.

The business case for Oak, published last week, claimed it was needed to break the “cycle” of school curriculum weakness.

It comes as the new quango is considering allowing private companies to sell its lessons on for profit.

But lessons will only be available in the UK after concern failing to geo-blocking could damage the market.

Publishers have warned Oak could risk the sector “collapsing”, accusing the Department for Education of acting unlawfully in a high court legal action.

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