Schools

Oak founders abandon national academy

At least seven of Oak’s original 11 trust curriculum partners have snubbed the new quango by choosing not to bid to provide new lessons

At least seven of Oak’s original 11 trust curriculum partners have snubbed the new quango by choosing not to bid to provide new lessons

Classroom teachers asked to express interest in reviewing and creating Oak content
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Leading academy trusts that helped to found the Oak National Academy at the height of the pandemic appear to have severed ties with the government quango after choosing not to bid to supply lessons.

Meanwhile, Schools Week understands that publishing giant Pearson has won one of the 12 contracts worth a total of £8.2 million to create curriculum packages for the website.

At least seven of Oak’s original 11 trust curriculum partners have snubbed the new arms-length government body.

They include Ark Schools, one of the country’s leading trusts on curriculum, and Reach Academy Trust, which incubated Oak before it was nationalised.

Sir Jon Coles, the chief executive of United Learning, which has already pulled its lessons from the platform, said: “That so few of the original schools’ groups who supported Oak are now prepared to work with it shows just how far away it is from its original model and its intention to be ‘by teachers, for teachers’.”

Backed by £43 million in government funding, Oak launched its first procurement for new curriculum materials covering six subjects in November.

The government paid the original curriculum partners to obtain the intellectual property so Oak could host their lessons in the meantime. But they were able to bid to become a new curriculum partner.

Founder trust now focused on its own work

Schools Week asked all 11 of the original partner MATs whether they had applied. The seven that replied said they did not bid.

Ed Vainker from Reach
Ed Vainker from Reach

Reach said it was “proud of the role our teachers played in developing the curriculum and the offer for children”.

But the trust was now focused on its own work, including supporting schools to develop cradle-to-career pipelines of support for children and families in their communities.

Ark, which provides curriculum programmes across several subjects, including the popular Mathematics Mastery, also did not apply for “a variety of reasons”.

Liz Tyler, managing director of the trust’s curriculum arm Ark Curriculum Plus, said it was “proud” to have supported Oak through a “national emergency”, but it now wanted to “focus on continuing to improve our own curriculum and professional development offer”.

“We think it is important that nationally schools have a choice of high-quality programmes that support curriculum implementation and great subject teaching.”

Oak ‘didn’t align with priorities’ says maths organisation

White Rose Maths, which supports more than 4,000 schools in the UK and abroad, said Oak “didn’t align with our priorities”. The organisation, owned by the Trinity MAT, felt “we might end up creating something we have already created”, a spokesperson said.

Tenax MAT, whose chief executive Sir Ian Bauckham is Oak’s interim chair, did not bid. Neither did Inspiration Trust and Star Academies.

United Learning, the country’s largest trust, set up its own website after refusing to hand over the 1,500 lessons it provided for Oak because it did not support a “government-approved curriculum”.

Ark's Lucy Heller
Arks Lucy Heller

Coles added: “We have always argued that this is morally wrong and the fact that others are abandoning the project suggests that many share our concerns. It undoubtedly points to the need for the government to reflect urgently on the future of Oak in its current form.”

Pearson declined to comment. The company is a member of the British Educational Suppliers Association, which is taking legal action over the new quango, saying it was set up illegally and poses a risk to the future viability of the sector.

An Oak spokesperson said: “We’re still finalising arrangements with our new partners and will announce them shortly. We are delighted with the wide range of organisations who’ve chosen to partner with Oak.

“It’s a powerful collaboration, truly bringing together expertise from every part of the education sector, with the largest number of partners represented by schools.”

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