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Heads swamped by red tape

Headteachers receive, on average, a new piece of government guidance every two-and-a-half working days, statistics obtained by the Liberal Democrats show.

The figures, revealed in a Parliamentary question, relate from 1997 to 2004. Sarah Teather, Lib Dem education spokeswoman, said: "What manager in any other industry or sector could be expected to get on with that level of interference? More must be done to reduce the paperwork burden on heads.

"A qualified teacher should always be in charge of teaching and learning, but bursars and human resources managers could handle pay roll and personnel."

Union leaders say that although the paper trail has been cut since 2004, heads still have to trawl through a mass of electronic information as government continues to micro-manage them.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "We don't understand why this happens while the Government talks about giving heads more autonomy. It does not send any paperwork to schools now and the system is better than the destruction of rain forests that used to take place every month.

"But heads still have to decide whether or not to download or send off for many documents. There is still micro-management."

Next week the Lib Dems will use their annual conference to call for a "business plan" to address what they say is a crisis in headteacher recruitment.

A motion due to be debated on Wednesday notes that around a quarter of schools in England that have advertised for a head have been unable to make an appointment, leaving many with temporary placements. It calls for urgent action to prevent the divide between schools with high quality leaders and those that struggle to appoint widening. The plan includes cutting the administrative burden and replacing Ofsted inspections with a system more supportive of headteachers.

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