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Ministers face up to red tape defeat

Secret government report suggests the mountain of paper is only getting bigger. Warwick Mansell reports

A SECRET Government dossier reveals 82 ways in which teachers are now being strangled by red tape.

The report offers an extraordinarily detailed insight into the mountain of paperwork that schools still face, despite repeated attempts by ministers to cut bureaucracy.

The dossier, produced by the Cabinet Office with the Department for Education and Skills, is marked "restricted" and based on a survey of 40 secondary schools. It will form the basis of renewed attempts to tackle one of the most serious problems facing teachers.

The 12-page paper documents how the DFES, Office for Standards in Education, Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and others add unnecessarily to the burden on teachers. Barely an organisation that deals with staff emerges unscathed: exam boards, local education authorities and the Learning and Skills Council all come under fire. For example, the report reveals that:

* In English GCSE coursework, teachers have to fill in at least seven pieces of paper for every pupil.

* A special needs co-ordinator looking after six pupils each taking 12 subjects has to fill in 72 forms a term.

* Staff must fill in eight-page threshold application forms for pay rises. Every experienced member of staff must have a one-hour interview for performance pay rises.

* The intensive nature of AS exams effectively means teachers do three terms' marking in two terms.

Teachers also complain that OFSTED asks schools for information already provided to other government bodies. Exam boards are attacked for requiring schools to predict grades for every module several years ahead, sometimes for pupils who are not even in school.

The report comes amid a Cabinet Office review of red tape across the public sector, which is feeding into the DFES's workload review.

A working party including unions, and civil servants met to consider the report this week and will now advise ministers on how to act.

A month ago, the Government was criticised by its own pay and conditions advisers for failing to cut initiatives and associated bureaucracy. And last week, the new schools minister David Miliband admitted to heads that the Government needed to be more selective in its initiatives.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"Teachers feel they are submerged in a sea of bureacracy most of which is pointless."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:

"It seems almost as if the Government and its agencies are part of a conspiracy to make life as difficult as possible for schools."

A DFES spokeswoman said: "Most of the tasks undertaken by teachers in schools are essential to the education and personal development of the pupils. Reducing bureaucracy is about eliminating unnecessary burdens."

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