'Smarter and simpler': the new era

18th December 2009 at 00:00
Hutt successor intends to cut red tape and leave teachers to focus on high-quality learning

Schools should be freed of excessive paperwork and bureaucracy to allow them to focus on high quality teaching, according to the Assembly government's new education minister.

Speaking to TES Cymru, Leighton Andrews, who took over from Jane Hutt last week, said the education system in Wales must become "smarter and simpler".

He said he will carefully consider the number of initiatives currently being run by his department and acknowledged that consultations are "very taxing" on schools.

Mr Andrews has spent much of his first week in the job in budget meetings to get a better understanding of the education funding system so he can deliver on new first minister Carwyn Jones's promise to increase school spending.

He acknowledged that Mr Jones's pledge, to boost budgets by 1 per cent above the grant from Westminster, had created "a lot of excitement" and said his job is to work out how it can be achieved.

Mr Andrews vowed he would always question whether things could be done more effectively, and hinted that some policies may be called in for review.

He said: "Wales is a small country. I'm sure we can be smarter and simpler in the way we make things happen in education.

"We have got to think very carefully given the number of initiatives going on in the department at the moment. There are lots of competing priorities.

"I want to look at the system of grants we have - do we have too many? Are we creating too many strategies? I would rather see a lot more focus on implementation and delivery.

"I think we have got to be careful that we are not overburdening people, particularly in the schools system, with paperwork. We should also look at consultations, which people find very taxing."

Clearing up the so-called "funding fog" that stops schools seeing exactly how money is allocated is also a top priority.

Although he admitted it would be a "challenge" to explain precisely how individual school budgets are arrived at, Mr Andrews said he would "drive" local authorities in that direction and make sure a greater proportion of the funding reached the front line.

Mr Andrews was keen to play up his support for heads and teachers and promised to meet regularly with all the "key players" in education, including the teaching unions.

"I regularly visit schools and hear about the challenges they are facing," he said.

"I have nothing but admiration for the work that's taking place on the front line."

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