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Ex-soldier fights red tape battle

A former captain in the Royal Corps of Signals, Nicky Chester left it for a career in teaching after it became clear that promotion meant the bureaucratic tedium of a desk job..

"What I wanted to do was deal with soldiers, people, leading troops. It's the same in teaching: you have a class and you have to look after them and help them progress," she said.

Despite making a career change to avoid paperwork, Mrs Chester spent most of her holidays this Easter at her school - Samuel Lucas JMI, in Hertfordshire - completing mounds of forms.

She is one of hundreds of staff who wish that the paperwork burden could be reduced.

Filling out assessments at the end of each primary topic for her 34 pupils alone accounts for nearly a thousand pieces of paper every year.

Like many teachers, she is irritated by the apparent futility of much of the work.

"In the military, I was used to paperwork, but it at least it all had a purpose: you fill in a piece of paper to take to someone and get something," she said.

"But this sort of paperwork has no benefit for the children at all: it's all Ofsted-related."

As well as assessment forms, she is in the middle of compiling lesson plans on a standardised form and has to do the extra paperwork for school trips.

Two years into her new career, Mrs Chester says she works about 55 hours a week - and more than a quarter of that time is taken up with needless bureaucracy.

The abolition of the Office for Standards in Education is another popular wish, since the watchdog's desire for a paper trail is blamed for much of this work.

Teachers also wish that they could take extra holidays in term time, and for sabbaticals to reward long service.

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