A publishing body has been told that there would be grounds for legal action against the Department for Education over the newly relaunched Oak National Academy, Tes has learned. The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) has been told that a judicial review against the creation of Oak National Academy as a government arm’s-length body to provide curriculum resources could still be possible.
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Earlier this year, in June, Tes revealed that legal action against the department over its Oak plans had been paused at the eleventh hour, as the DfE had not yet decided on crucial aspects of how it would operate. However, BESA said its solicitors had advised that a challenge could go on three fronts.
The first is that, as a quango, Oak National Academy would not be subject to Freedom of Information requests. Second, it will use resources from various publishers, which could breach competition law. The third is that the DfE has not yet drawn up an equality impact assessment for the new body – something BESA believes is required by law.
A spokesperson for BESA said: “We have been advised by our solicitors that there are grounds to proceed with a judicial review, and we are currently considering our options. We remain extremely concerned about the detrimental impact Oak could have on the educational publishing sector, which supports thousands of jobs in the UK.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The Oak National Academy is a not-for-profit organisation, set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to provide high-quality resources and support for teachers. It will help reduce teacher workload and ensure every child receives a good education, regardless of the Covid-19 situation in their area.
“We have been clear that the Oak National Academy will be subject to Freedom of Information requests, and we are confident it does not breach competition law. An equality impact assessment will be carried out to set up the new organisation.”
The news comes as the DfE is facing calls to rethink its plans for Oak National Academy amid concerns that it could undermine efforts to create a level playing field for all schools.
Speaking at a recent House of Commons Education Committee hearing, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “I think there are some big issues about this quango which have not been thought through.”
He added that the NEU would be seeking talks with the DfE over its concerns and called on ministers to put Oak National Academy on a statutory footing so that it is subject to proper scrutiny.
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, has also called on the government to rethink its plans for Oak National Academy, saying it risks creating a “two-tier” education system.
The Department for Education has said that Oak National Academy will be a “not-for-profit organisation, set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to provide high-quality resources and support for teachers”. It is due to launch in September.
Do you think there are grounds for legal action against the Department for Education over Oak National Academy? Let us know in the comments below.
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