Shuffling the paper is all they do

Two secretaries of state have now made virtuous (or should that be pious?) promises to cut bureaucracy and paperwork. And yet I have been both afflicted and insulted by the following over the past months:

* Department for Education and Skills paper missives may have declined but their volume has merely moved on to the website, which has to be accessed and read all the same.

* Data is still being demanded of the local education authorities which then pass it on to schools, allowing the DFES to claim its promise is being kept.

* I have been instructed to plan how I will cut my unauthorised absences from 0.29 to 0.25 over the coming year. Following the performance and assessment principle that nothing is actually good enough, an overall attendance figure of 99.71 apparently warrants improvement. I shall punish my children for being ill or arrange for their parents to be jailed as an example to others.

* My key stage 2 national test papers are dribbling in with some of the mark sheets so illegible that I have to revert back to the papers to check the figures. I have to process these for July 18 so that parents and children can get their results.

* The new threshold application form is now 12 sheets long and asks such fatuous questions as: "Have you recently obtained qualified teacher status and have you reached the top of scale?" Has anyone in the performance unit read the parameters for qualifying for threshold? It also contains requests for data on the latest DFES obsession - anything it can label as "ethnic".

Given the growing crisis in recruitment and retention - and so many other important issues - it is about time Education Secretary Estelle Morris and her new whizzkid David Miliband closed down the print unit for a month, visited schools and stopped paying just lip-service to helping them get out from under this suffocating mass of non-productive and demoralising paper which buries headteachers' desks every week.

Tony Roberts

Walton le Dale primary school

Preston

Lancashire

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