Oak academy will create 10,000 lessons for next year with £4.3m DfE funding

The Oak National Academy will create around 10,000 lessons – including a version of the entire national curriculum – after being handed £4.34 million by the government to continue next year.

Schools Week revealed yesterday that the online lessons platform, set up in April, had won Department for Education funding to continue in the 2020-21 academic year. It will form part of the government’s contingency plan should schools be unable to open again next year.

Given the risk of local lockdowns, it’s sensible to have a back-up plan available to any school

It was announced today the academy will create and record 10,000 lessons for September, including a version of the national curriculum which will be available for free to any school.

Schools will also be able to reorder topics and lessons to fit their own plans, with advisory groups including sector leaders set up to “make sure Oak’s offer works for as many schools as possible”.

The expansion will be funded by £4.34 million from the DfE which, like the £500,000 start-up costs, has been awarded without a tender because it is part of the coronavirus pandemic response.

Matt Hood, principal at Oak National Academy and a DfE adviser, said: “Given the risk of local lockdowns, it’s sensible to have a back-up plan available to any school, to make sure children can continue to receive an education.”

He added that through a “significant collaborative, sector-wide effort we’re going to set out a broad, flexible curriculum map for the full year by July and share the majority of the video lessons that go with it before the new academic year begins”.

In its first two months, Oak delivered over 13 million lessons. Next year’s expansion will give schools a “back-up” remote learning offer if there are local lockdowns or staff and pupil absences due to illness and shielding.

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

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

The 10,000 lessons will cover core subjects from reception through to year 11, as well as a specialist curriculum.

Oak has so far used around 80 teachers to record lessons, but this will be scaled up to more than 300 teachers over the next few months. Some of the funding will go towards reimbursing schools for teachers’ time during term-time and pay teachers for any work in the summer holidays.

Oak’s core team of staff is also expected to increase to around 30. The academy will remain part of the Reach Foundation, the sister charity of the Reach Academy Feltham school.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said Oak’s achievement have been “nothing short of outstanding”.

“This is an invaluable programme for schools and teachers, supporting children to catch up and keep learning now and into the next academic year.”

The government funding will also be supplemented by support from the Mohn Westlake Foundation. Oak has previously said there’s no plan to charge for the content once the crisis was over.