HEADTEACHERS have joined the fight against red tape by refusing to carry out new initiatives that increase workload.
The National Association of Head Teachers told its members yesterday to take action if the Government, local authorities and quangos failed to cut the amount of bureaucracy in schools.
Heads could refuse to fill out forms, complete Government or council audit returns, or answer data requests - particularly where identical information is demanded by two or three bodies.
The move follows industrial action by the two largest classroom unions, the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.
The NAHT will leave it to heads to decide for themselves what action to take. But it made it clear it was taking a tough line on an ever-growing problem.
Ministers have pledged to reduce red tape and instructed councils and agencies such as the Office for Standards in Education and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to cut unnecessary form-filling.
"Any breach by any of these bodies should lead to school leaders refusing to take action which creates workload," the NAHT told members.
The unon said heads should consider whether each fresh initiative, document or demand added value to their pupils' education, before they co-operated.
David Hart, NAHT general secretary, said the time had come for a "counter-attack" against the red tape which "engulfs" his members.
He added: "We are not in the business of industrial action, we are in the business of exercising common sense."
Mr Hart said heads would act to cut not only their own workload but their staff's too.
A study by the Government's Office of Manpower Services last month revealed that teachers now work more than 50 hours a week, with heads working more than 60 hours.
The move was welcomed by the NUT, which says its own joint action with the NASUWT has proved overwhelmingly popular with members.
Those participating take part in a maximum of one meeting a week, limit reports to 400 words and refuse to do administrative tasks, including chasing absent pupils, photocopying and filing.
The Secondary Heads' Association has already given its tacit support to the NUTNASUWT action and the NAHT now says it too is "sympathetic" - although it opposes prescribing what action to take.