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Heads need to speed read through bumf

Ministers say they want to cut red tape but government documents keep pouring in, reports Jon Slater

Headteachers need speed-reading courses to help them cope with government paperwork, their leaders said this week.

Schools are still being inundated with documents despite attempts by ministers to reduce bureaucracy.

New figures show that secondary heads received an average of 10 pages a day last year from the Department for Education and Skills, the Office for Standards in Education and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

The DfES sent the most information, with 41 documents (totalling 1,003 pages) posted to secondaries and 34 (737 pages) to primaries. Ofsted sent 822 pages to secondaries and 443 to primaries. The QCA sent 30 pages to secondaries and 33 to primaries.

The DfES's 2003 mailing list is smaller than it was at its peak in 1999-2000, when it sent 146 documents to primaries and 164 to secondaries.

In 2001-02, 85 documents were sent to secondaries and 76 to primaries.

Ministers promised to cut this by a further 50 per cent in 2002-03.

David Miliband, school standards minister, quoted in one leaflet from the body set up to reduce red tape and bureaucracy, said: "We want to free up teachers' time to concentrate on what they do best - teaching."

Other subjects covered included travelling to school, a flyer on sustainable school transport and notification of a new e-payment system as well as performance management and curriculum materials, Mr Miliband told MPs in response to a parliamentary question from Tim Collins, Conservative education spokesman.

John Dunford, Secondary Heads Association general secretary, said: "A speed-reading course is now a necessary part of headship preparation.

"The DfES has tried to stem the flow but the amount of documentation will only reduce when the Government relaxes its central control of education."

Ministers have launched an online publications service in an attempt to reduce the burden on schools, and Ofsted has proposed a lighter-touch inspection regime.

A DfES spokesman said: "The number of publications sent to schools has been halved in 20023 compared to the previous year. In addition we are implementing an online ordering system to replace the automatic mailing of paper from the DfES to schools.

"Heads will be able to select exactly which publications they want, how much they need and when they want to receive them."


The largest documents sent to schools in 2003:

* Teachers' pay and conditions document 2003 (DfES, 180 pages)

* Key stage 3 national strategy: Year 9 booster kit - English 2003 (DfES, 170)

* KS3 : targeting level 5 and above - teaching responses to reading (DfES, 122)

* Annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 2001-2 (Ofsted, 106)

* Handbook for inspectors - Inspection of Connexions partnerships (Ofsted, 89)

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