There is a new collective noun to describe the unnecessary workload in colleges

19th September 2003 at 01:00
There is a new collective noun to describe the unnecessary workload in colleges - a confusion of inspectors. Like the idea of "a murder of crows", such nouns are all very amusing unless you happen to be on the receiving end of the ensuing chaos.

No one predicted quite what a bureaucratic nightmare the two-year-old inspection regime would create, though many now argue that it should have been foreseen.

For example, a college goes willingly into a new 14-19 partnership with 12 local schools and offers accommodation for the pupils. But what happens when those schools are inspected individually and both the Adult Learning Inspectorate and the Office for Standards in Education want to see the full provision? Answer: one or two college lecturers find an endless stream of inspectors traipsing through the classrooms - with cascades of paperwork in their wake.

Probably the last word from the Learning and Skills Council's bureaucracy-busting taskforce is to call for a single inspection regime.

This need not mean the death of ALI or Ofsted, nor a merger of the two. But it does demand a more rational approach, the introduction of which must not be delayed.

Signs emerging this week suggest the cuts in bureaucracy - promised more than a year ago - will take up to three years to arrive. Meanwhile the taskforce, chaired by Sir George Sweeney, has been forced to accept that few significant cuts have so far been made. It proposes radical changes, which the new taskforce, under Sir Andrew Foster, comptroller of the Audit Commission, must address.

It will take time to replace the horrendous audit trail with more sensible planning. Nor will the huge cut in admin staff be easy to manage, given the anger within the staff unions. But issues such as introducing more reasonable inspections must be introduced with speed. Otherwise it will be more than the crows facing collective murder.

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