Leaked slides reveal Oak’s vision for new curriculum quango

As consultation starts next week, Schools Week reveals how the government arms-length curriculum body is shaping up

As consultation starts next week, Schools Week reveals how the government arms-length curriculum body is shaping up

24 Jun 2022, 16:49

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The new government arms-length national curriculum body will offer resources to “stretch” pupils, but still doesn’t know how much funding it will get — nor how it will resolve a copyright issue with current lesson providers.

A market engagement tender has gone live today, inviting attendees to a webinar next week to share “initial thinking” on how the arms-length body will work. The body was supposed to launch “from autumn”, but a full tender now won’t run until November.

Schools Week has obtained a copy of the slides set to be shared at the webinar, which reveal the body’s plans to offer resources to “stretch” pupils, the subjects it will prioritise and the big issues still to be resolved.

Any decisions are still subject to final confirmation and “review pending further information of their potential impact on the commercial market”, Schools Week understands.

1. Oak will offer resources to ‘stretch’ kids

The body will have two core objectives – to “improve pupil outcomes by raising the quality of and access to the taught curriculum” and to “support teachers to achieve excellence alongside reducing workload”.

The slides also reveal Oak will not just be about catch-up. It will offer a “package of connected stretching materials for teachers and pupils through the same digital education platform that is available across the four nations and draws on content and expertise from all areas of the UK”.

Oak wants to establish itself as a “high performing, well respected sector organisation that: maintains its ‘by teachers for teachers’ approach; contributes to the growing understanding of curriculum best practice; is operationally independent from government; and delivers excellent value for money”.

2. Still no solution to copyright on current lessons

The government originally said Oak would be up and running from autumn, but it is running behind schedule. It still has a lot of things to work out, including “how best to support stretch for the most able students”.

But it also hints at some bigger problems. An unresolved issues is how the body “will acquire the curriculum resources it will make available”.

Schools Week understands some of the academy trusts that provided Oak’s current lessons, for free, would expect funding in exchange for handing over their copyright.

Oak also doesn’t even know how much funding it will get, nor the “conditions, proposed outputs or objectives attached to such funding.

In another hat tip to a potential issue, Oak has said it is “particularly interested in views on how best to mitigate any potential negative impacts on existing providers of high quality educational services used in schools in England”.

The British Education Suppliers Association has already vowed to take legal action.

3. The 6 subjects set to be prioritised

Oak will cover a “broad academic curriculum” from key stage 1 to 4. Six subjects are being considered for the first tranche: English, maths, science, geography, history and RE.

Other subjects – including a specialist and stretch offer – will follow “soon after as it is our ambition to cover a broad range of subjects and content in line with the national curriculum”.

They will create “full curriculum packages by subject to ensure quality remains high and we can learn and adapt as we go”.

Those subjects will be prioritised “in line with government policy in literacy and numeracy and as many from the EBacc as possible”.

The slides also state science suffers from subject expertise shortages. There are no languages to allow for modern foreign languages reforms to progress first.

4. Independence and free resources set in stone

The slides state the “operational independence, alongside a requirement for its resources to always be free, entirely optional, adaptable and informed by the best available evidence, will be written into the ALBs [arms-length body’s] founding document”.

The consultation with the sector is because they want to “retain the open, ‘by teachers for teachers’ spirit of Oak and hear from you” before it is officially established.

Teachers, unions, heads, schools, trusts, subject associations, publishers and commercial providers will be invited to the webinars, hosted by the Department for Education.

5. Serving teachers to sit on board

Oak said it will ensure quality by appointing a “strong board which includes serving teachers and establishing strong subject, phase and specialist advisory groups who will help to define quality frameworks and where there are valid alternative approaches”.

Curriculum partnerships will be built through a “broad and collaborative national process, ensuring that we draw on expertise from within, and not away from, the system”.

The organisation itself will have a “lean” team, including subject experts, who work centrally to oversee the partnerships and deliver “curriculum coherence”.

They will also “test” full curriculum packages with partnerships of schools before they “come out on ‘beta’ mode”.

The body will work “closely” with the Education Endowment Foundation, the research community and use Ofsted’s curriculum reviews to “ensure its work is informed by the best available evidence and aligns with best practice”.

6. Lessons will ‘stimulate not displace’ others

Oak says it is “critical” to conduct a “broad and collaborative national process” – involving the “education resource market, teachers, schools, subject associations and many others”.

Procurements will also be run, and they want resources to “stimulate, not displace, high quality market offers and subject communities”.

The offer to keep other lesson providers on board will also include “signposting to a limited number of alternative high-quality market offers decided through an open and fair process”.

7. What Oak won’t do

Oak has promised not to sell lessons either domestically and abroad. It will also not provide phonics resources, nor development of management information systems, subject-specific CPD development, or textbooks.

But they will look at opportunities for organisations to “align their products and features with, and enrich, the ALB’s resources in ways that support wider market growth”.

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