Reports that headteachers' burdens are increasing even as classroom teachers' hours decrease, suggest that reforms have failed to cut school leaders' workloads.
Heads have been deluged with more than 50 government initiatives over the past two years. In each case, they must report back on how they have delivered them.
Jim Knight, the schools minister, said heads needed breathing space to improve schools. "This isn't the go-ahead to tear up all the paperwork on your desk," he said. "But it is a recognition that we need to focus on forms that make a difference and disregard the rest."
Mr Knight made his comments at last week's National Association of Head Teachers' conference, which represents 30,000, predominantly primary, school leaders.
Delegates demanded the Government reduce bureaucracy, as schools faced "meltdown" with the barrage of exam reforms next year.
Asked by The TES whether he trusted heads to decide what to prioritise, Mr Knight said schools needed to be given more freedom.
"For the past 10 years, we've driven accountability back to the top pretty hard," he said. "Perhaps we need to devolve accountability so we can step back a lot more."
Heads called to account, page 23