Exclusive: DfE to fund Oak National Academy next year

The government is set to provide funding to continue the Oak National Academy for another year, Schools Week can reveal.

As well as helping schools provide lessons for any pupils still at home in September because they may have to continue shielding, the online academy will be a key part of the government’s contingency planning should schools have to close again.

The government has promised all pupils will be back in school, full-time, from September.

Ministers are pinning their hopes on running “bubbles” of whole classes from the start of the new school year. However, further details on how this will work have not been released.

Schools leaders have called on the government to draw up a plan B should there be, for instance, a second wave later this year or a local lockdown meaning schools in some areas have to close.

The announcement, expected in the coming days, will form part of the government’s contingency plans. It is believed a seven-figure funding figure is due to be signed off.

As schools will have all their pupils back, it will leave little room for teachers to also continue providing online learning for those unable to attend.

Plans to set up the academy, which provides online lessons from early years up to year 10, were revealed by Schools Week in April. It has been put together by around 80 teachers across the sector, and has expanded to include a specialist curriculum. The academy also wants to expand its key stage 4 offer.

The scheme was launched with a £300,000 grant from the Department for Education. By the end of its first week, two million lessons had been accessed.

The academy was “incubated” as part of the Reach Foundation, Reach Academy Feltham’s sister charity.

Oak has also been running weekly online assemblies. Last week’s, on kindness, was led by The Duchess of Cambridge.