Department ignored bureaucracy-busters

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
Officials turned deaf ear to advice on reducing regulations for schools

A government body designed to cut the volume of school regulations passed by Whitehall has said the Department for Education ignored its advice.

The Implementation Review Unit (IRU), an advisory panel of school practitioners, had, according to a parliamentary select committee, recommended a reduction in the vast number of new regulations issued to schools and heads.

The unit submitted the evidence to the inquiry in which the House of Lords merits of statutory instruments committee looks into the proliferation of school regulations.

The TES reported last October that during the 2006-07 legislative session, the then Department for Education and Skills had introduced 135 new regulations for schools.

Speaking to the select committee on Tuesday, schools minister Jim Knight said: "We have a very good relationship with the IRU but sometimes they would prefer us to take our foot off the gas."

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which submitted evidence, said the attitude revealed a "genuine tension" between the Department and the IRU.

Martin Ward, of the ASCL, said: "I think the Department should be reluctant to ignore the recommendations of the IRU. The panel was set up by the Government to give advice on these matters, so it seems odd to not take their comments into account."

Since the DCSF was created, schools and heads have seen little restraint in the number of regulations being introduced, with 30 introduced in July last year alone.

Lord Geoffrey Filkin, committee chairman, said the DCSF's system for delivering regulations was "out of control" and called for schools to be allowed more time to deal with any new regulations introduced.

Lord Filkin said: "You should set at least a term's length in lead-in time, especially if changes involve staff having to be retrained. For example, a new requirement should be brought to a school's attention at the beginning of the summer term to be implemented in September."

The committee also called for the Department to introduce new statutory items only "once or twice" during the year. Mr Knight said a term's lead-in time would "by and large" be reasonable to achieve.

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