UNNECESSARY red tape is distracting headteachers from the Government's crucial demand that they raise standards in schools, a Cabinet-appointed task force has revealed.
In a report, published yesterday, it criticises the multiple and often duplicate demands placed on schools for information from government departments, the Office for Standards in Education, councils and even governing bodies.
"Over-elaborate processes are being used to achieve straightforward objectives," says the report.
It warns of a real risk that the Government will not meet its targets and urges a rethink of schools' legal duties.
The Better Regulation Task Force, whose chairman Lord Haskins has close links with the Prime Minister, recommends a series of measures to combat bureaucracy in schools. These include a central database of information, cutting the number of governors, streamlined funding and better use of computers.
Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods, said: "Everything must be done to make sure that the management job of the headteacher is as relevant as possible - not spent on form-filling."
The task force's findings coincide with publication of a survey bythe National Association of Head Teachers of more than 3,000 heads which reveals an urgent need to reduce workloads.
Of particular concern to the task force were struggling schools and those with 400 pupils or fewer. "It's a vicious circle. When you are a struggling school you require additional support which means more regulation. If you are a small school you have the same regulatory burden as a large school," said Lord Haskins.
The team makes 20 recommendations including the demands that the Department for Education and Employment work with OFSTED and that councils pool requests for data from schools.
It said that the DFEE should target change where it is needed, co-ordinate policies, communicate more effectively and assess the full implications of its policies.
The DFEE admitted more could be done to cut bureaucracy and said that by 2002, when all schools were connected to the Internet, it aimed to have phased out most paper-based communications.
FOUR KEY CONCERNS
blurred lines of accountability
too many reporting requirements
inadequate admin support
Heads and red tape, 6