Time to cut the red tape

MINISTERS SOUTH of the border face increased pressure to reduce red tape as unions raise the issue of members who they say are tackling an increased load of paperwork.

It is the first time in nearly 10 years that the burden of red tape has become as important as pay to those negotiating on behalf of FE lecturers and administrative staff in England. The news comes as the Scottish Funding Council moves to reduce the burden of "monitoring, evaluation and accountability" on universities and colleges.

In England, Barry Lovejoy, national head of further education for the University and College Union, and joint representative for the unions in negotiations with colleges, said workload was expected to become as important as pay. "We don't blame college management for this," he said.

"It's to do with assessment and the demand for data. It's really the first time since about 1998 that workload has been this important."

After several years of work to reduce bureaucracy in further education, new evidence has emerged in England which suggests the burden has actually increased for the majority of staff.

A study carried out for the UCU and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers paints a picture of increased stress and longer working hours - all being caused, at least in part, by admin work.

The study, by Ruskin College in Oxford, looked at responses from 1,350 FE members of the two unions, of whom 82 per cent said their overall workload had increased, compared with 2 per cent who said it had reduced. Of those who claimed an increase in workload, 88 per cent blamed "more administration", with 46 per cent citing "more students", 39 per cent"

saying "more teaching" and 21 per cent claiming they had to do more research work.

The funding council in Scot-land has launch-ed consultations to find the elusive balance between holding colleges to account for spending public money while removing some of the "tick box" burdens of accountability.

"The emphasis will be on the quality of data rather than endless quantity which may not tell you very much," Roger McClure, the council's chief executive, said. "One way we can support governing bodies is to ask them to tell us in their own words how well they think they're doing.

"You're no longer filling in forms for the funding council, but displaying to your own local stakeholders how you feel you're doing."

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