Policymakers "fixating" on the "old-fashioned" English Baccalaureate has meant a lower level of investment made in online learning in the run-up to the coronavirus pandemic, according to heads.
Responding to the news that social distancing measures are likely to continue to the end of the year, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that focus on the EBacc had meant there were fewer systems in place to ensure home learning could run smoothly.
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"I think we’re going to look back at this period and think we spent the last 10 years fixating on a pretty old-fashioned curriculum looking backwards on the EBacc and all of that when in fact we could have been investing in making sure you had a curriculum which linked with children at home," he told the BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight programme yesterday.
He added that "what we know is that the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged is getting bigger", although he said: "I’m sure we will get better and better at being able to provide all of that."
Last week, the Department for Education announced that free laptops and tablets would be provided to disadvantaged pupils to make remote learning easier.
Disadvantaged children in Year 10, care leavers and those who receive support from a social worker would all be provided with free devices.
The DfE later said that the decision about which children received the devices would be left up to local authorities and multi-academy trusts.
Mr Barton added that "the socialising importance of schools can’t be underestimated".
"These children will benefit from being able to get back into school one way or another, and already, you know, just from the announcement this evening, you start thinking about, ‘Is there a way of bringing small groups of youngsters together so at least they experience that really important, rather cathartic sense of being in a community even though it’s not going to be a community quite on the terms that it would have been in the past?" he said.
Describing headteachers as "by definition control freaks" he said that they were now dealing with "stuff they can't control" and were reliant on medical advice that it would be safe to reopen schools.