'Avalanche' of paper attacked

28th July 2000 at 01:00
SCHOOLS have been sent more than 3,500 pages of instructions by the Government in the past seven months.

The statistics - given in a written answer to a parliamentary question from Conservative education spokesman James Clappison - were seized upon by teachers' leaders as further evidence that red tape in schools is out of control.

Between January and July this year, the Department for Education and Employment sent every secondary school 75 separate documents, totalling 2,063 pages and covering everything from the national curriculum to guidance on exclusions and performance management.

In the primary sector, the situation is little better. Heads and teachers have had to wade through 67 documents, a total of 1,480 pages.

The figures emerged a month after the two largest teacher unions began a protest over what they see as excessive administrative workloads, refusing to carry out tasks such as photocopying and filing and cutting down on report-wrting.

In a Commons debate this week Conservative MP, David Prior, attacked the "avalanche" of paperwork flowing into schools. He also claimed that many teachers believed the literacy and numeracy strategies were too prescriptive.

Jacqui Smith, education minister, admitted that the two strategies had added to workloads, but said they had also raised standards.

The Government had pledged to cut the number of documents sent to schools by a third, had attempted to make the new curriculum more flexible and was paying for 20,000 new teaching assistants by 2002, she said.

But Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The Government keeps saying it is going to cut bureaucracy, then it keeps launching more initiatives.

"While in many cases the individual initiative is to be welcomed, ministers have to see the bigger picture and consider the overall effect on teachers."

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