Schools engulfed by new projects

17th September 1999 at 01:00
Ministers' promises to cut bureaucracy may seem hollow as teachers face up to 19 initiatives. Warwick Mansell and Karen Thornton report

SCHOOLS are being hit with 19 new government initiatives this year - despite ministerial pledges to reduce bureaucracy.

The situation is better than last year when schools and education authorities had to implement 29 new policies.

But teaching unions warn that the latest Department for Education and Employment-sponsored directives will further increase the hefty administrative burden on teachers. Governors, too, say they are fast reaching the point of overload.

Among the schemes for 1999-2000 are: induction years for newly-qualified teachers, the numeracy hour in primary schools and new exclusions and admissions arrangements.

Ministers have decided to delay the introduction of staff appraisal systems and school complaints policies until September 2000. But governors will still have to deal with new anti-bullying policies, home-school agreements, the increased number of parent representatives on governing bodies, and changes in school status.

John Adams, chairman of the National Association of Governors and Managers, said its surveys of members showed school governors are deeply concerned.

He said: "The House of Commons education select committee concluded that the workload was manageable, but its judgment was made before this term's increase of duties and obligations.

"Governors will do their best, as always, to meet the duties being placed on them. But they are signalling to us that there are limits to what can be demanded of volunteers. We are getting very close to that limit."

Many of the initiatives stem from last year's School Standards and Framework Act, which also gives governors much greater say in the running of schools.

The Government is admitting to 19 new developments in schools over the next 10 months. Last year, it sent out a circular advising schools to cut down on needless bureaucracy. But the unions warn the directives are having the reverse effect.

Top of the list of worries for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is the introduction of the numeracy hour in primary schools. Sheila Dainton, head of the ATL's policy unit, said that teachers were now spending at least an hour each day preparing for literacy and numeracy hours.

She added: "Schools and teachers continue to suffer from innovation fatigue. It's becoming absolutely relentless."

Bob Carstairs, assistant general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said he was concerned about admissions appeals becoming more complicated and heads losing their room for manoeuvre over exclusions.

He added: "The School Standards and Framework Act was a massive piece of legislation that followed the Government's pledge to reduce bureaucracy. It has done the exact opposite."

AN INITIATIVE TOO FAR?

Innovations for 1999-2000 include:

* Numeracy implementation hour. l New local authority powers to

intervene in schools.

* Revised desirable learning

outcomes introduced in primary schools.

* Induction year for new teachers.

* Home-school agreements.

* Parent governors on education committees for first time.

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