Red tape boycott looms for heads

Ministers warned classroom teachers' action is likely to have a knock-on effect

HEADTEACHERS are reaching breaking point and may start refusing to carry out administrative tasks, the Government was warned today as classroom teachers begin industrial action over red tape.

The Secondary Heads Association has told its members they should not get in conflict with their staff, and instructed them to refer any disciplinary action against teachers to the governing body if the boycott breaches their contracts.

Heads said the Government's demands for information, surveys, bids for money and other paperwork will be shuffled to the bottom of the pile if demands on their time are not curtailed.

More than 300,000 members of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers today begin a boycott of tasks including photocopying and filing, setting a limit of one meeting a week and one annual set of pupil reports - to a maximum of 400 words each.

Heads this term must assess almost 200,000 threshold applications for performance pay rises, while setting up new appraisal systems in their schools. John Dunford, general secretary of SHA, said enough was enough.

He said: "Many heads question a lot of what they have to do. Increasingly, they are reaching the limit of what they can do."

Absence returns and forms about fixed-term exclusions - five pages long in some authorities - are going to the bottom of the pile as heads prioritise their work.

Richard Fawcett, head of Thurston community college in Suffolk and SHA president-elect, said: "Some tsks will have to wait, some may have to be briefer than usual, and some won't get done - such as surveys or returns to LEAs."

Mick Brookes, president of the National Association of Head Teachers and a Nottinghamshire primary head, said: "One head said to me, why don't we just return stuff the DFEE unopened, marked "return to sender"? I can see some heads coming to the end of their tether."

Heads of smaller schools were already refusing to bid for funds because they did not have time to fill out the forms, he said.

All unions are telling heads not to take on work refused by their staff.

The NUT is telling its members who are heads to work with staff to reduce bureaucracy. Heads should also look at their workload and see what they could cut out or give to appropriate support staff, a spokeswoman said.

Linda Lefevre, head of Brecknock primary in Camden, north London, said heads were reaching the point of refusing to do everything demanded of them.

She said that the DFEE, Camden and government quangos had all demanded the same information from her on different forms. Forms to access New Deal money for building repairs had to say how results would improve. "We're replacing old lead water mains - it's quite a challenge to come up with educational targets for that," she said.

The Secondary Heads Association advice to members says: "This is not a contest between SHA and NASUWT or NUT. The action ... is not directed against the headteacher of the school, although it may sometimes feel like it."

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