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Launch of askOLA by Education Taskforce: Combines academic ‘catch up’ and mental wellbeing

Today (March 3rd) award-winning EdTech provider GLUU has spearheaded a taskforce of leading education partners to launch askOLA. The pioneering programme allows pupil-led learning with access to wellbeing support and saves teachers time by reducing their workload. 

askOLA is an on-demand, out-of-school learning and wellbeing support system.  The intention is for the system to support the whole student, both academically and emotionally; addressing their readiness to learn.   

askOLA is being launched in the run up to 2022 exams and vocational qualifications with schools able to choose how they spend ‘catch-up’ funding and amid wider concerns about mental health being expressed by the Children’s Commissioner and other leading education figures. 

The pandemic has also accelerated the digitisation of schools and a ‘hybrid’ approach to education with classroom learning backed up with remote provision. askOLA is a great example of a new online platform that provides academic and wellbeing support which is student-led and can be used outside of school hours.   

Students receive online academic support from vetted Online Learning Assistants (OLAs) and are signposted to the digital mental health and emotional wellbeing service provided byKooth if they are experiencing difficulties – including direct access to counselling services or pre-moderated self-help content, if needed.  

askOLA adds capacity to the education system by allowing young people the opportunity to access pastoral and learning support outside of school in the same way that they can approach a teaching assistant if they were in a classroom. That way, children have access to support whenever it is needed, and teachers can rest assured that their pupils are being well supported outside of school, reducing workload.  

askOLA is currently being piloted at The Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust in the West Midlands after launching there in February with around 2,500 pupils currently registered to use askOLA.  

 Christine Major CEO of GLUU said:

Everyone at GLUU is so excited to launch askOLA.  We know that the pandemic has created huge amounts of upheaval for children, both in terms of their educational progress and their wellbeing and we wanted to design something that could help address both those problems. 

We know that children and teachers can benefit from what askOLA has to offer but we also hope to bring some peace of mind to parents; with the help of an OLA, they can rest assured that their children have extra professional support to underpin their learning recovery activity, reducing pressure at home.”

Sir Mark Grundy, CEO of Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust said:

“We are delighted at Shireland to be the pilot Trust for askOLA. It’s been wonderful to see how helpful it is for pupils to have amazing online support at their fingertips outside of school. The combination of wellbeing advice and tutoring is so important as we help young people recover from the pandemic.”  

Sam Palombella, Director of Government Services, Kooth said:

“As with us all, the lives of young people have been significantly disrupted during the pandemic, this has had an impact on both mental health and wellbeing. By signposting students to Kooth, this taskforce is ensuring that students have a safe, confidential, and welcoming place to access non-judgemental mental health support. One that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and easily accessed via a click of a button on a smartphone, laptop or tablet.”

Chris Rothwell, Director of Education, Microsoft

EdTech has such an important role to play in the classroom – and at home, that’s why at Microsoft we want to see programmes like askOLA succeed because this pioneering programme is another example of how online support can give all-round benefit to young people.”  

Tej Samani Founder Performance Learning said

“We are proud to be part of a task force helping young people with online support and askOLA is a programme that helps with both learning and mental health advice. It’s an extra tool for pupils, teachers and parents to use and hopefully shows how EdTech can be so beneficial alongside classroom teaching.

More information about the pilot:

The pilot of askOLA began at Shireland Collegiate Academy on the 14th of February and around 500 students are taking part. Feedback has been very positive with students finding the online platform easy to use and helpful – a selection of pupil comments so far includes:  

“I think it’s going to help a lot. Sometimes in lessons I don’t really get the questions and so I can use askOLA….they don’t just give me like the answer straight away but they lead me towards the answer. So they’re not just telling me [information], I’m actually learning something” – Kayleigh, 12 years old 

“It’s really helpful because…they’ve shown you how to work it out. That’s great”- Jasmine, 12 years old

Staff have also found askOLA’s new catch up and wellbeing support helpful 

“The service has been well received by pupils and staff. During the launch assemblies our students were clearly enthused – they couldn’t wait to get started… especially outside of school hours and in homework club”. Louise O’Gorman, teacher at Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust

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