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Panel to cut red tape in Wales

A bureaucracy-busting panel of school staff has finally been set up in Wales to cut red tape - more than a year after its English equivalent started work.

The school workload advisory panel is one of the fruits of last year's agreement on cutting teachers' workload. Its remit is to advise on how bureaucracy affecting schools can be reduced.

The pound;60,000-a-year panel will be monitoring the red tape generated by new and existing policy initiatives, and making recommendations on how to cut it or reduce it to a minimum.

And it will be able to consider the work of other agencies besides the Welsh Assembly government, such as local education authorities, the inspection agency Estyn, and WJEC, the Welsh exams board.

The panel, of three headteachers, a deputy, a teacher and a school secretary, holds its first meeting on September 20-21. Chairman John Hopkins, head of Gwernyfed high school in Brecon, Powys, and president of the Secondary Heads Association Cymru, said he was looking forward to the challenge.

"I have a real interest in workforce remodelling because I have been pushing it hard in my own school. By reducing bureaucracy on teachers, I have reduced staff absence through ill-health, improved morale and still raised results," he said.

Announcing the panel's membership, education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson said it would play a "key role in cutting red tape so that schools can focus on teaching and raising levels of achievement".

Gethin Lewis, secretary of the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said it was looking forward to the panel ensuring sufficient resources were available for classes to be taken by qualified teachers, when 10 per cent non-contact time becomes mandatory next September.

Geraint Davies, his counterpart at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Cymru, said the Assembly had dragged its feet over setting up the panel. The English equivalent, the implementation review unit, was set up in April 2003 and published its first annual report this spring.

* The other panel members are: Karen Bibey, secretary, St Bernadette's primary school, Cardiff; Pat Clarke, head, St Mary's primary school, Wrexham; Richard Edwards, head, Lansdowne primary school, Cardiff; Patricia Landers, deputy, St Joseph's Catholic school, Newport, Gwent; and Susan Ralph, teacher, George Street primary school, Pontypool.

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