Stat's the limit, say heads

School leaders' association calls for united stand against pointless data requests

HEADTEACHERS PLAN to fight back against the deluge of requests for information they receive on everything from their pupils' physical dimensions to whether children come to school by bike.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, will tell his union's annual conference this weekend that heads should refuse to provide local authorities with data that "isn't available at the push of a button".

Dr Dunford has written on behalf of his 13,000 members to warn councils that heads will reject any demands for information that involve additional work.

"Requests for extraneous information which create paperwork for the school are increasing," he wrote. "These requests divert already limited time and resources away from the school's key priorities of improving teaching and learning."

Schools already keep essential data such as exam results and school absences on their computer systems, while the pupil level annual school census (Plasc) provides the Department for Education and Skills with information on basic indicators such as free school meals and ethnicity.

But headteachers say that the appetites of local authorities and other agencies for extra details, such as the eating habits of pupils, is distracting from running their schools.

Malcolm Trobe, ASCL president, said each time a different agency asked to use information, a letter had to be sent to every parent. "This is a mammoth task, both in terms of sending out information and checking it is returned," he said.

Some schools have struck agreements with local authorities to reduce the time wasted finding information. In Hertfordshire, schools have agreed to provide the county only with existing information and school census data.

Russell Ball, chairman of the county's association of secondary heads, said "Before the agreement, we were being asked to give details to one department that another department already had - there was a doubling-up of the work."

But heads in Hertfordshire report they are still bombarded with requests from other agencies.

A DfES spokesperson said the Government had "slashed the bureaucratic burden". "No government has done more to support heads because we recognise the challenges and responsibility that the job brings," he said.

More than 500 school leaders are expected to attend the ASCL conference in London today. Speakers include Ofsted's chief inspector, Christine Gilbert, and the novelist Jilly Cooper.

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, was expected to say today that he hoped headteachers' workload would be reduced with support from other school staff.

"We must do more to ensure the benefits of workforce remodelling flow to heads and school leaders as well as to teachers," he said.

* Heads have won new authorisation to walk into classrooms whenever they like to monitor the quality of teaching and learning. The Department for Education and Skills and unions have agreed to ditch a draft performance management policy that would have restricted how often heads could "drop in" to classes. Teachers' unions said excessive numbers of often unannounced visits by heads are one of their members' biggest stresses, a form of harassment and a factor in industrial disputes.

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