The Oak National Academy has recorded its highest weekly user figures since last March, in another sign of the disruption to schools caused by the Omicron variant of Covid.
The government-funded online learning platform, which launched in 2020, said it had around 340,000 users last week, despite many schools only being back for just three days.
This is more than double the number of users in the week to December 19, and is the highest level seen since schools reopened to all pupils last spring.
On Wednesday alone Oak had 139,000 users, more than three times its average daily user figure for mid-December.
Oak said today it also expected numbers to grow as schools grapple with Covid-related absences. As well as pupils using Oak for remote learning while isolating, the platform said some schools are using its services for cover lessons with staff off.
It comes after a poll by school leaders’ union NAHT found that more than a third of schools (36 per cent) were reporting staff absence rates of 10 per cent in the first week back after the Christmas holidays.
Schools Week also revealed last week that Arbor, a school management information system provider for over 1,600 schools and 200 trusts, had found disruption was “unevenly distributed”.
While some schools are reporting relatively low staff absences, the worst-hit have up to 27 per cent of staff absent because of Covid.
Oak said the highest increase in engagement was in Leicester and Luton, where a threefold increase was recorded, and in Lancashire and Cheshire, where numbers increased twofold.
All telecoms providers ‘zero-rate’ Oak content
The online education provider has also announced that BT and its subsidiaries EE and Plusnet have now agreed to remove data charges for Oak content from the start of next week. This brings them into line with other providers, and means that all the main telecom companies are now “zero-rating” its content.
According to Oak, more than one in five users are currently accessing the platform on a mobile phone, and these are “likely to be those from the lowest-income households”.
Oak principal Matt Hood said the sharp increase in users “shows learning moves smoothly online when pupils cannot be in class or their teachers are off”.
“Pupils and parents are now used to this approach, and teachers are becoming highly skilled in the different methods of online learning.
“Oak National Academy is offering advice to schools on how to use our online lessons most effectively in cover lessons, in combined classes and for remote learning if their pupils are off. We’ll carry on support teachers and schools up and down the country until the worst of Omicron is behind us.”