Cut paperwork demands, says lead inspector

17th May 2013 at 01:00
Excess of red tape produced in the name of CfE will be criticised, he warns

Schools that demand excessive paperwork from teachers in the name of Curriculum for Excellence will face official criticism in school inspections, one of Scotland's most senior inspectors has warned.

The red tape building up around CfE is getting in the way of high-quality teaching and learning, especially in primary schools, according to Ken Muir, strategic director (school years) and director of inspection at Education Scotland.

Mr Muir said that inspectors had already identified a worrying increase in bureaucracy related to planning and reporting on progress related to CfE.

Schools are demanding highly detailed daily, weekly, and termly plans covering "every experience and outcome", Mr Muir told TESS after addressing a CfE conference in Edinburgh. "That's a lot of time planning, taking away from the opportunity for learning and teaching," he said.

"Teachers, on occasion, are being asked to complete highly complex tick- box grids on a regular basis," Mr Muir added.

"This completely detracts from learning and teaching and actually misses the point about engaging learners in their learning, and teachers providing an overall view on the progress youngsters are making."

But one headteacher later summed up the frustration shared by many in the profession that the added bureaucracy around CfE actually flows down from national bodies such as Education Scotland.

Bryan Paterson, head of East Ayrshire's Kilmarnock Academy, told TESS: "If we don't watch, we're going to end up bureaucratising Curriculum for Excellence in the same way we did 5-14. For HMIE, or Education Scotland, to come out and criticise schools for this degree of planning, when this is what we've been pushed into, is a bit rich.

"If you go on to the Education Scotland website and look at the models of, say, curriculum architecture, then it flies against what was said at the conference."

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said the union welcomed the "clear advice from HMIE about avoiding excessive bureaucracy; indeed, our current workload campaign is precisely focused on areas such as this".

But Mr Flanagan said it was "over-zealous micro-management" that was responsible for creating extra paperwork, not teachers.

Education secretary Michael Russell acknowledged concerns about bureaucracy, saying that CfE was about liberating teachers, not "ever- increasing paperwork and supervision".

Delegates at the conference, organised by education directors' body ADES, heard that St Andrew's RC Secondary in Glasgow received an outstanding inspection report after minimising paperwork with its "traffic-lighting" approach to tracking pupil progress.

"HMIE valued how straightforward it was and so do our young people, who can tell you if they are green, amber or red in a subject," said head Gerry Lyons.


Former senior chief inspector Graham Donaldson stressed that, whatever the problems around CfE, Scotland was a world leader in education.

"We in Scotland are in a strong position internationally - Curriculum for Excellence, I'm quite clear, is the right agenda," said Professor Donaldson, whose Teaching Scotland's Future report paved the way for reform of teacher education.

There was much to be optimistic about - every university in Scotland would have new teaching degrees within the next few years, for example - but also some areas of concern.

Closer links between schools and universities were needed, and he suggested that many people failed to grasp new concepts of leadership.

"The problem with leadership is it tends to make you think of followership," he said. In fact, every teacher in a school should be free to show their leadership qualities, he said.

Photo credit: Alamy

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today