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Number 10 duplicates drive to cut red tape

DOWNING Street's crack team of bureaucracy-busters is turning its attention to the classroom - in an apparent duplication of a red-tape inquiry already launched by the Department for Education and Skills.

The Cabinet Office's public-sector team of experts from business and public services will visit 30 schools across the country to determine what tasks take up teachers' time and distract them from teaching.

It intends to make good the Government's pledge to cut teachers' workload. But the DFES is already acting on that promise - with a study costing as much as pound;500,000 commissioned from management consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

The consultants will visit 100 schools in England and Wales to look at all aspects of teachers' work, including red tape, and report in the autumn to a steering group of unions, employers and DFES officials. This will make recommendations on how to cut workloads.

The Cabinet Office team also plans to speak to the DFES, unions and local authorities to agree on which elements of teachers' jobs can be dropped or done by other staff.

ADFESspokesman said the team had begun its work before PWC had been commissioned and was working to a different, more focused, remit.

The team claims to have saved some pound;7.2million in an earlier study of NHS doctors' surgeries and has already consulted heads over ways of simplifying dealings with the DFES, local authorities and others.

David Hayler, a Unilever executive seconded to head the team, said its 16 members would try to establish which parts of teachers' jobs made no contribution to pupils' learning.

"Teachers are professionals who are employed to teach and that is the most effective use of their time," he said.

The team has already produced proposals for sorting out the flow of between schools and outside bodies. It involves a new information classification system for documents, including an "information box" so heads can see at a glance what the document is about, whether they need to act on it, and how quickly.

The Cabinet Office team says it will be keeping in close touch with DFES officials in charge of the PWC inquiry.

"Where we come across matters which are outside our remit, we pass the information on to the department, and they draw our attention to instances of red tape," Mr Hayler said.

Surprisingly, teachers' leaders have no complaints about the apparent duplication. Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "This emphasises the importance attached to overcoming the problems teachers face."

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