Education publishers, authors and resources suppliers have issued an open letter to the Department for Education (DfE), calling on them to reconsider plans to turn Oak National Academy (ONA) into an arms-length public curriculum body.
ONA was founded during the pandemic and offers nearly 10,000 free lessons to teachers covering age groups 4-16.
While it has been confirmed that ONA resources would remain free, the government’s decision to turn the organisation into a public body has prompted competition fears amongst existing providers.
The DfE has agreed to pay £1 million to Oak partners for existing lesson resources created during the pandemic and plans to commission new materials from November 2022.
Senior figures from six industry organisation have addressed the new education secretary James Cleverly as well as schools minister Will Quince in the letter, stating that: “All the current evidence indicates that the Department is pursuing a major market intervention into the school resources market which teachers neither want nor need.”
It continues: “We wholeheartedly support the Department’s desire to stimulate the development of curriculum expertise for teachers and to support them in accelerating education recovery.”
But adds: “We assert that this process has not been thought through and comes with a significant amount of risk politically and to the wider school system.”
“Teachers repeatedly say their priorities are more funding, initial training and CPD. The creation of a new Arm’s Length Body (ALB) should be a policy of last resort and there has been no assessment of need or projected future impact on either the commercial market or teacher choice,” the letter explains.
It continues: “The current proposals risk fundamentally undermining this ecosystem and we ask the government to pause these proposals and resultant procurement processes in order to properly consult with stakeholders, to assess need, and to find an end point which achieves a more proportionate and sustainable future for Oak National Academy’s assets, while allowing the flourishing and competitive education resources market to continue to offer choice in quality resources for schools. We believe this compromise is possible with engagement and dialogue.”
Contributors include top figures from the British Educational Suppliers Association, the Publishers Association, the Society of Authors, the Authors’ Licencing and Collecting Society, Publishers’ Licensing Services, and the Copyright Licensing Agency.
They state that the current plans risk the “collapse of the commercial education resources sector to the detriment of all those people involved in it”, and urges the government to engage with them in order to “find a more proportionate approach”.
Read the full letter here.