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Assembly 'passing the buck'

Report ignores the red tape problem, claim teachers. Nic Barnard reports.

TEACHERS' leaders have accused the Welsh Assembly of passing the buck on bureaucracy by claiming that workload needs simply to be better managed.

A draft report for the assembly on reducing the bureaucratic burden concluded that there were "no areas of activity" such as inspections, target-setting or even data analysis that could be removed.

But the report, by seconded deputy headteacher Mandy Paish, said that "the systems in many areas (were) unduly burdensome" and agreed that the burden needed to be reduced. Systems needed to be better managed, it said.

That produced an angry response from the Welsh arm of the National Union of Teachers. Gethin Lewis, secretary of NUT Wales, said: "This document is terribly weak and disappointing. It won't give anything to teachers in Wales and doesn't take us beyond the circular produced by the Welsh Office in 1998. They're passing the buck back to schools."

The project was launched last summer and is separate from the inquiry by the Department for Education and Skills in Westminster into teacher workload. That inquiry, begun two months ago, has been extended to cover Wales.

Proposls by Ms Paish - known in Wales as the "bumf buster" - include simplifying preparations for school inspections and sharing more good practice on lesson planning.

The assembly has pledged to "free up teachers' time to teach, by reducing the burden of paperwork", and education minister Jane Davidson is committed to ending multiple requests from different bodies for the same information.

But Mr Lewis said the assembly must go further. It should drop the rolling three-year targets which meant teachers were setting goals for pupils who had not yet even joined their school.

And he called on the assembly to match the Government's pledge in England to provide 10,000 more teachers and 20,000 more support staff - measures intended by ministers in part to ease workload pressures.

"The Government in England has realised it needs to put extra staff and money into schools," he said. "The Welsh Assembly is still saying there's no more money."

A spokesman for the assembly said the teaching unions had all sat on the advisory group and none had sought the wholesale removal of areas of work. "The report is about incremental change and is concerned with simplifying and streamlining procedures," he said.

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