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Purging the paper;Opinion

ADMINISTRATION IS always the enemy. In the Health Service the eternal cry is, get rid of the administrators and hire more doctors and nurses. In education, MPs ask why do we need so many people in local authority offices. This week the Inspectorate and the Accounts Commission have joined forces to back the campaign against the amount of bumf and admin in schools. Streamlining time spent on administration could free the equivalent of an extra 1,500 teachers.

If HMIs want to regain staffroom confidence knocked by interpretations put on the recent Quality and Standards report, this is the way to go about it. Everyone likes to be told they are wasting time on paper shuffling when more important tasks await. Now teachers have the official imprimatur.

But, it has to be added, little by way of practical answer to the problem. The Inspectorate is no different from other bodies in adding to the burdens when the needs of state dictate. The target-setting exercise for schools is a case in point. So for that matter is Higher Still with its extra demands on assessment. The electronic revolution is supposedly propelling us towards a paperless society, but in practice it looks farther away than ever.

This week's report takes its own argument on a step. Administrative chores should be undertaken by support staff. Two problems arise. Who is to pay for extra help? The Government is bankrolling a tranche of classroom assistants but while P1 needs shoelace-tiers, other bits of education would welcome different kinds of help, so far unfunded. Second, much administration is produced by professional activity and can only be handled by teachers. Recording pupil progress is notoriously time consuming but cannot be devolved.

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