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Teachers reap benefits of Oak National Academy in workload, wellbeing and improving lessons

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Almost two thirds of teachers said using Oak National Academy saved them valuable time in the last school year, widely regarded as one of the most challenging ever.

Nine in 10 said their overall workload increased sharply from September 2020 when schools fully reopened and they implemented stringent safety requirements, managed remote learning for increasing numbers of pupils, got to grips with new technology and dispatched food parcels to families that needed them.

However 61% of teacher-users said Oak’s platform and resources saved them time during these difficult months. Oak users also felt better mentally than non-users, reporting statistically significant higher levels of wellbeing. Oak, the national online classroom and teacher resource hub, was launched in April 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The findings, published today in Oak National Academy’s annual report, were collated by ImpactEd, the independent analysts. It has measured Oak’s impact across a range of measures to help it evaluate and improve performance. Highlights include:
• Pupils have taken part in 130 million lessons since the start of the pandemic
• Lessons were chiefly used by pupils in the 40% most deprived areas
• Over 260,000 (59%) of state school teachers used the site and its resources
• 92% of teachers who used the platform said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of the content
• 56% of teachers who use the platform said Oak helps improve the quality of their in-person teaching and 58% that it improves in-person lesson planning

The report found Oak successfully targeted schools in areas of high deprivation and social mobility cold spots, such as Walsall, Wakefield and North-East Lincolnshire.

More children and teachers in these areas used Oak compared with more affluent areas. In cold spots, 58.7% of teachers said their pupils used Oak compared with 54.1% in hot spot areas. Oak lessons were chiefly used by pupils in the 40% most deprived areas. These children were helped by Oak’s successful campaign to secure a zero rating of the site by mobile networks, meaning children could take part in learning without racking up big bills for mobile data.

Oak National Academy grew from producing a few hundred lessons a week in the early months of the pandemic to hosting 10,000 lessons covering almost the entire national curriculum by September 2020.  Pupils have taken part in 130 million lessons since April 2020 and 59% of state school teachers used the site and its resources. Almost all teachers who use it (92%) said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of the content and 73% per cent would recommend it to fellow teachers.

Three in four of those teachers plan to carry on using Oak resources this term and beyond, with many pointing to how the platform has improved their teaching in the classroom. Over half (56%) of teachers who use the platform said Oak helps improve the quality of their in-person teaching and 58% that it improves in-person lesson planning. A breakdown of how Oak is being used now that classroom teaching has resumed found that lesson-planning is the most popular task, followed by using videos in the classroom, setting work for absent pupils and for cover lessons.

One of Oak’s core aims has been to provide value-for-money to the sector. Oak has given every school a resilient back-up and a national set of high-quality resources for the equivalent budget of one secondary school and with a core staff team similar to a primary school (~30).

Oak National Academy is staying open and free. This will ensure there is a national back-up as we head into an uncertain autumn and winter, and a library of high-quality curriculum resources for teachers and schools.

Matt Hood, principal of Oak, said:

“Oak is just under 18 months old. We are proud to have helped millions of children and teachers during such a difficult period and that schools want to carry on using our resources. But there is plenty more for us to improve, learn, develop and evaluate — all things we’re committed to in the months ahead.

“Our research shows Oak helped save teachers valuable time and improved their well-being during a particularly difficult time. But it also shows now that teachers have mastered technology they intend to carry on using it now that they are back in the classroom. Our aim is that Oak frees them up to focus on working directly with pupils by sharing high-quality, curriculum-aligned materials, created by fellow teachers. Oak was built by teachers, for teachers, and this will continue to be the case as we develop and evolve.

“A particular achievement is that we successfully reached pupils from disadvantaged households and their teachers. But we also know the most disadvantaged pupils were less likely to have access to a laptop or reliable wifi, an issue that we must all try and resolve as we embark on learning recovery where we believe Oak has a considerable role to play.”

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