A liberating solution to workload and quality problems

Oak National Academy recently completed their commitment to their new curriculum resources. Everyone spoke up and was heard. Now is the time to make a difference.

Oak’s track record of attracting talent and solving problems is impressive. Throughout the pandemic and with the unprecedented challenges facing our young people and their teachers, she has made a swift and game-changing contribution to our country. During troubled months, when classrooms were hastily remodeled as cyber-learning spaces, where teachers had to master digital pedagogy at lightning speed, Oak assembled excellent practitioners whose high-quality recorded lessons enabled our children to keep learning.

Given its success over almost three years and the focused collaboration and creative thinking that Oak has used to do its job, it is only right that it is now a key partner in tackling another challenge affecting the sector: teacher burnout and weak curricula.

These serious problems threaten the quality of education, especially for children, who have the greatest learning gaps. Oak will provide well-ordered syllabi, supporting information, lesson plans and related resources (slides, quizzes, independent assignments, worksheets) for a wide range of subjects in elementary and secondary school. These are designed by teachers, quality assured and tested in the classroom.

Planning a quality curriculum is tedious and time-consuming. Schools and foundations, reconsidering their plans in the light of Ofsted’s research reports, have grappled with the organization of component knowledge. For those starting from a low base or struggling to recruit and retain phase or subject specialists, the challenge is doubly daunting. Time delays between intention and implementation of compound learning loss.

Seeing a great model empowers development

In this area, Oak offers a liberating solution that is open to the industry to adopt or adapt. Wise use of Oak resources reduces the need for teachers to spend hours planning lessons from scratch. At a time of alarming teacher brain drain, a solution that addresses workload and ensures emotional well-being without sacrificing quality is most welcome.

Rightly so, oak is not mandatory and never can be. In fact, it has committed to designating three alternative programs per subject from other providers. Professionals are free to choose from Oak’s resources to meet their needs through a spectrum of blended approaches.

At Star Academies, teachers will continue to use the Trust’s excellent materials in conjunction with those from Oak and commercial publishers. Their entry points into Oak’s curriculum repository depend on their own contexts. Oak offers a toolkit, not a straitjacket.

Oak’s curriculum continues to be created by teachers whose skills and creativity can inspire others. Professional advisory groups, including established trade associations, will monitor quality and consistency. Research confirms that seeing a great model boosts professional development, especially during the early stages of a teacher’s career. This is the core of what Oak offers.

Oak has taken steps to protect the interests of the commercial sector. The market is ready to benefit from the possibilities of digitization and artificial intelligence. Oak will inspire creativity and stimulate our national capacity at the forefront of pedagogical thinking.

Our education sector cannot afford to stagnate. Performance inequalities are at their highest since 2012, with the poorest students falling further behind their peers and mental health problems persist.

The significant financial investment in Oak is a positive acknowledgment of the need for innovation. If we don’t grasp the tangled nettles of workload and quality, we will continue to see young teachers quit and schools struggle to provide the compelling curriculum every student deserves.

I applaud Oak as a positive legacy of the pandemic. We need innovation to help teachers retain their energy and flair and make student learning effective. Our sector’s response to the Covid crisis has shown its resilience, maturity and creativity – essential qualities that we must maintain in the challenging years ahead.

Ultimately, Oak will help improve the life chances of young people in some of our most disadvantaged communities and that is why it has my full support.

Editor’s Note: Matt Hood, Chief Executive of Oak National Academy, is the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Bay Leadership Academy, one of the Star Academies schools