DfE urged to revise plans for Oak National Academy

Trade associations, teaching unions, parliamentarians and professional bodies have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, asking for the funding that is earmarked for the Oak National Academy is given directly to schools.

The letter says: "We wish to draw your attention as a matter of urgency to the decision taken by your predecessor to allocate £43m of funding to the incorporation of Oak National Academy into an arms-length body (ALB). This funding decision was taken before the October ‘fiscal event’ and subsequent increased pressures on the public purse. Following Thursday’s Autumn Statement, we urge you and the Chancellor to invest this funding directly in schools rather than in the establishment of a new 80-person strong quango under the control of the ministers of the day.
"Recent reports show take-up of Oak content is at best patchy, with the equivalent of just one teacher per school regularly using the platform and only four out of 10 lessons completed. Poor metrics such as these fly in the face of the Department’s stated desire to encourage schools to adopt and utilise high-quality, sequenced teaching and learning resources, and do not represent value for money for taxpayers.
"Whilst the take-up rate among teachers is low up to now, ongoing cost pressures in schools will force greater adoption over time, causing irreparable damage to school autonomy, curriculum choice and diversity of thought.
"EdTech investors are already deserting the UK as a result of the market distortion caused by Oak. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) stresses the importance for policy makers to conduct competition assessments during the policy making process, yet the business case for Oak was only published at the beginning of this month – two months after it had already become an arms-length body.
"We are extremely concerned that Ministers have not referred the full and final plans for the ALB to the CMA for an independent investigation after the Department’s own acknowledgement that the new quango will cause damage to the UK’s world-leading digital publishing industry.
"We support the Department for Education’s mission to reduce teacher workload and to improve accessibility to high-quality curriculum products. Yet in its present form, Oak will not achieve these ambitions and vital public funding will be wasted. Given the urgent fiscal challenges facing the sector and the moral imperative to focus spending on areas of most need we would urge you to revisit and scrutinise the principles, aims and objectives behind the plans for Oak."