When teachers from Sutton’s Arthur Terry Learning Partnership joined colleagues from across the country to set up a pioneering national online teaching website, they simply wanted to help pupils learn at home during lockdown.
Now, as schools stay open through a second lockdown, the hundreds of video lessons they created are proving invaluable to teachers and pupils alike.
The Oak National Academy was born in April, the result of teachers across the UK giving their time to record lessons that could be accessed for free by anyone, simply by visiting a website.
Sutton’s Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP) was approached by the Academy’s principle, Matt Hood, to provide lessons in Modern Foreign Languages.
Tracy Williams, ATLP’s head of languages, helped pull the Partnership’s contribution to the project together.
Oak started in April as an emergency response to the pandemic,” she explained. “During the Easter holidays, I phoned three of my colleagues, all French and Spanish teachers in ATLP schools and asked if they wanted to be part of this unique project.”
“We spent hours carefully planning French and Spanish lessons for students in years 7-10, adapting our everyday practice to ensure our lessons would work in a virtual environment.”
“Every week we made about 20 lessons, which we recorded at home – often in the middle of the night, as we got to grips with what we were doing!”
“The lessons were published on the website each week. I think in total, during that first emergency response period, those language lessons were accessed more than 400,000 times. It’s incredible really.”
The success of the pioneering project in the original lockdown attracted the attention of the Department for Education, which provided financial backing for teachers to record a whole year’s worth of content – as a back-up plan in case of another lockdown.
“At that point it was hoped that schools would fully re-open in September, but no one was sure how the pandemic would progress,” Tracy said. “In July, 400 teachers from all over the country spent three weeks planning and recording lessons in their kitchens and living rooms – adapting their practice to make it accessible to any student who might end up isolating and learning from home once more.
“Oak has been made by teachers for teachers – to support them to teach in their classrooms and remotely at the same time.
On the Oak National Academy website, teachers, parents and children can find carefully planned online lessons, completely free of charge.
With nearly 10,000 lessons available, covering a wide range of subjects, from Early Years Foundation Stage to Year 11, children benefit from an enthusiastic teacher who’s there on the screen telling the child exactly what they need to do, setting them specific tasks in line with the national curriculum.
There is also a range of specialist lessons covering a wide range of learning areas and therapies. Lessons are an hour long, and include a quiz, a video explanation from the teacher and a worksheet.
“In the second phase, I led the Key Stage 4 French provision. Recording a year’s worth of lessons in three weeks is no mean feat!
“By building on everything we had learnt from the first term of lessons and by expanding the team significantly we managed to do it!
“The newly-expanded languages team included three ATLP teachers as well as two teachers who had trained to be teachers with the Arthur Terry National Teaching School. An RE teacher from ATLP also contributed lessons, while languages teacher Nick Lunn became the Oak’s resident recording tech expert – providing invaluable support with so many lessons to record.
“This is a fantastic resource,” Tracy said, “and we just want as many people to know about it and to use it.”
“Schools are working so hard at the moment to teach students through this lockdown, as well as providing work for children who are self-isolating.
“The lessons available on the Oak National Academy website could help relieve some of that pressure. They might also serve as an excellent revision tool for students in year 11.
“Oak National Academy shows how the teaching community has come together, right across the country, to support each other and children when they need it. I’m proud to be involved.”
Richard Gill CBE, CEO of the Arthur terry Learning Trust, said:
“I am delighted to be part of the Oak Academy. It’s a fantastic resource and I’m so proud that the ATLP could play a role in its development. My thanks to our incredible team who have demonstrated such skill, creativity, and commitment throughout.
“Praise too for the brilliant Oak team, led by Matt Hood, who crashed down barriers to make this happen and ensured that those learning at home have access to high quality resources, which reduces the burden on teacher and schools.
“I’m pleased that our partnership can provide further support and expertise as Oak continues to grow and make a difference to the lives of so many.”
To access the free resources, visit https://www.thenational.academy/