The Oak National Academy has gone from nothing to national institution in just a few months. Here, its principal Matt Hood sets out his end of year report.


As teachers, we all know the power of feedback in helping our pupils improve. So as the end of term finally arrived, we worked with ImpactEd to set out our very own “what-went-wells” (WWWs) and evidence-based interventions (EBIs) – drawing on conversations with over 2,000 teachers and parents, and digging into some of the data behind our platform.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been operational for just four months. Our initial emergency response started out with 40 teachers creating weekly lessons to complement schools’ remote learning.

Fast forward, and we’ve just completed a month-long “sprint” with 300 teachers preparing resources for next academic year covering the majority of the curriculum for those aged 4 to 16. It’s fair to say we’ve had to learn a lot during this time. Our report starts to bring that together.

 

What went well

The headline numbers are, frankly, hard to get our heads around. Over 4.7 million people visited Oak, with an average of 220,000 users each day. They watched an astonishing 181 million minutes of video and took part in 20 million lessons.

Most importantly, teachers told us it made their lives a little bit easier during a challenging time. The most cited main benefit from teachers for using Oak was reduced workload, while 27 per cent said improved quality of teaching and learning was their main benefit. And we’re delighted almost 90 per cent of teachers who use Oak would recommend us to their peers.

We’re very clear that online lessons are not a replacement for a teacher in the classroom. But given the need for blended learning from Covid-19, we’re proud that 80 per cent of parents who responded saw the quality of resources and teachers as the best part of Oak. It is teachers who’ve created Oak and it is they who we are most proud of.

 

Even better if

Like any good end of term report, for every piece of praise, there are areas to improve. This is particularly true for Oak. As the context shifts from a full national lockdown to the hope of all pupils back in school, we need to adapt to support teachers. There’s four important “Even Better Ifs” we’re working hard on for September.

The first is our curriculum. Some teachers haven’t used Oak because it doesn’t align with their curriculum. So we’ve worked with more teachers, sector bodies and subject associations to expand our curriculum in line with the most popular topics and create a broader offer, up to Year 11 and with increased specialist content.

The second is planning. Our week-by-week “just in time” creation of lessons was necessary, but didn’t help teachers plan. For next academic year we’ve published our full plan of lessons for the year in advance – with the majority of these nearly 10,000 lessons available by September.

Third is flexibility. Our strict structure was also a problem if schools taught topics in different orders. So schools will now be able to re-order Oak’s lessons to match their needs.

Finally, there’s adaptability and access. Teachers loved our content, but they wanted to adapt it for their context. So, wherever copyright allows, we’ll let teachers download, edit and print resources – also helping students without access to devices.

 

September and beyond

Like any report, this is just a snapshot. There’s much more for us to learn about Oak’s impact and effectiveness. It is teachers and schools we serve, so we’re committed to digging deeper, understanding more and striving to support them better.

None of us know what the new academic year will bring. We can be sure teachers and school leaders will again take it in their stride. And Oak will be here as a free, optional support – happy only if you feel we’re worthy of a ‘much improved’ stamp.