Matt Hood, Principal of Oak National Academy

Over the last year, remote learning has become a necessity for education across the country, and indeed across much of the world. Those without strong online access have been at risk of falling behind, ever-widening the gap between the richest and the poorest students and the education they receive. This has been as much of an issue in colleges as well as schools.

As an online platform we at Oak National Academy are acutely aware of this risk. We were created to support teachers and pupils in schools with online learning.

Our online classroom and resource hub was set up by teachers in response to the pandemic. It provides around 10,000 lessons plus slides and worksheets, all for free, covering reception to year 11 - age 4 to 16. But this only helps if you as a pupil, parent or teacher have the tools to access it.

Remote learning has now become part and parcel of everyday school and college life. Even when schools and colleges have been fully open, many students have faced extended periods of time at home and have had to rely on remote provision to stay up to speed with their education.

We all agree a good education should be free, but the pandemic has shown that you need both a laptop and internet data to keep learning remotely. The truth is that poverty affects access to both of these things, and therefore to access to basic education. So we have to step up our efforts to support and protect our most vulnerable students.

A lot of good work has been done on getting pupils laptops. As of February 16, the Department for Education has distributed over 1 million laptops to schools and colleges across the country to support disadvantaged students with remote learning. This needs to continue with pace and energy. Much less, however, had been done to tackle data poverty.

With the announcement of January’s national lockdown, Oak National Academy launched a campaign to ‘zero rate’ education websites. This is tech speak for mobile networks and internet providers removing data charges for accessing certain education websites - so it won't cost the user, nor count towards their data limits.

Our campaign garnered significant attention and support, and we are delighted that from February 9, Oak National Academy is now data free on nearly all mobile phones. That means any family can visit www.thenational.academy to access our 10,000 lessons on a mobile and won’t be charged for any data.

This is a fantastic step from the Mobile Networks, who’ve worked closely with us to make sure there is support for the most vulnerable families. We also know just how much this is needed. Before February halfterm children took part in our 100 millionth Oak National Academy lesson and we’re currently seeing around 2.5m children use our website each week..

The importance of zero rating educational websites cannot be overstated. The latest figures from Ofcom highlight that up to 1 million students can only access the internet via a mobile device, with no home broadband.

And even worse, an Ofcom survey in December found that one in five households reported problems with the affordability of their telecoms services – equivalent to 4.7 million households. Shockingly 1 in 20 households had lowered how much they spend on clothes and even food to pay for data.

The challenge on devices is also far from done. According to the Association of Colleges, as of November 2020, 100,000 college students were still without a suitable device for learning. And according to the Sutton Trust, 56% of school leaders in the most deprived schools reported that they haven’t been able to help half or more of their pupils who need devices.

What does all this mean for students’ learning?

The IFS estimates that by the end of the pandemic, children across the UK will have missed more than half a year of normal, in person, schooling – more than 5% of their entire time in school.

Many in education are now therefore starting to consider what happens next. It’s clear that our strategy for years to come will need to include extra support for pupils to catch up.

The good news is we know what will make the biggest difference: more expert, quality teaching. It's vital our response is to invest for the long term in recruiting more teachers and lecturers and supporting and developing them to be the best they can be.

In the short term we can reasonably make two other bets:

1. Small group tutoring helps accelerate learning

First up, the evidence shows that small group tutoring helps accelerate learning - especially for those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Extending the National Tutoring Programme is a good place to start. Raising awareness of FE-focused tutoring companies such as Get Further, who recruit talented graduates to deliver high-impact catch-up tuition in English or maths for college students, will also impact the speed of recovery post-pandemic.

2. Help teachers and lecturers focus on what they do best

Secondly, we need to help teachers and lecturers focus on what they do best, and clear away additional distractions and asks. We hope Oak National Academy can help here. Our 10,000 lessons cover a hefty chunk of the national curriculum. We hope teachers (and maybe even some lecturers too!) and can draw on them to fill gaps in learning. Being pre-recorded means they can be done at a time that works for teacher and pupil - with as little disruption to whole-class teaching as possible.

But catch-up only works if we know what pupils have missed. Teachers and lecturers are brilliant at this but our thousands of quizzes can also help them to pinpoint gaps and support pupils to address them.

Whether it’s online tutoring or remote catch-up learning, it’s clear digital learning is going to be a necessity, not a nice to have, in the recovery. Yet the pandemic has so far only amplified the impact of poverty on a child’s chance of educational success. If we want recovery to close - not extend - existing gaps, closing the digital divide once and for all has to remain at the forefront of education’s strategy.

Matt Hood, Principal of Oak National Academy

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Lewisham College has published a new article: Lewisham College wins Double Gold Award 4 hours 47 minutes ago
Sharon Walpole added a new event 5 hours

CareermapLive: An Introduction to WorldSkills UK...

During this live webinar, you'll have the opportunity to learn about our skills competition development programme which provides colleges,...

  • Wednesday, 28 April 2021 03:30 PM
  • Online Event, UK

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page