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125 ways to lighten burden of red tape

A CLAMPDOWN on inaccurate marking of national tests and a streamlined admissions procedure are among 125 new measures to cut red tape and bureaucracy in schools.

A year-long government study involving interviews with more than 500 school and council staff revealed that inconsistent marking of key stage 3 English tests had forced teachers to spend extra time double-checking papers.

The joint Department for Education and Skills and Cabinet Office report said that schools sometimes had to return scripts from entire year groups for remarking. It pledges more rigorous checking of this year's tests.

It also says that by September 2005, local education authorities will act as central "clearing houses" for a co-ordinated admissions system, taking in voluntary-aided and foundation schools, to relieve the burden on staff.

The package of measures, to be introduced between now and September 2005, also includes a DfES promise to halve its mailings to schools in 200203 and a simplified performance-related pay process.

Philip Rushbrook, head of the regulatory impact unit at the Cabinet Office, said: "It is not a silver bullet, there is no magic reduction of all bureaucracy. What this is essentially is a housekeeping type of project with a large number of measures which cumulatively will help front-line staff."

Its success will be monitored by the panel of nine serving heads, two senior teachers and a school administrator, who are checking the progress of the workload reforms.

Eamonn O'Kane, National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers general secretary, said the unit - which works to cut red tape in all sectors - had the potential to "bear down hard on the incessant flow of initiatives".

John Dunford, Secondary Heads Association general secretary, said it needed to change the culture of schools. The report was welcome but "nine-tenths of the bureaucracy iceberg" remained untouched by its recommendations.

John Bangs, the National Union of Teachers' head of education, said: "There are a lot of useful actions in there but many of the things it is trying to sort out are self-inflicted."

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