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Unions not impressed by red-tape toolkit;News;News and Opinion

THE GOVERNMENT'S new "toolkit" to help schools reduce paperwork will fail unless ministers cut down on educational initiatives, say the teacher unions.

The do-it-yourself bureaucracy-beating guide for schools has been given a lukewarm reception.

The 53-page document advises headteachers to appoint a manager to identify where red tape can be cut and to plan how to avoid generating any more. But Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, claims the guide will have limited success.

He said: "While the toolkit for beating bureaucracy may provide some help in terms of management, at the core the Government has continued to introduce initiative after initiative without costing their workload effects on schools."

The guide says headteachers should ensure paperwork is completed efficiently, get the most appropriate staff for each job and make the best use of information technology. It also asks heads to question how necessary some requests for information are, for example from the local authority.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said many heads will not bite the bullet: "While the document is moving in the right direction there is a difference between the thing going out and making schools implement it. In many ways it is asking heads to be heroic and stand up against the system. It may have limited effectiveness, but will bring no real change."

Local authorities have also been given advice on how to reduce the burden on teachers in a letter from Education Secretary David Blunkett and Graham Lane, education chair of Local Government Association. It said pre-Office for Standards in Education inspections of schools should be banned, information requests to schools should be limited and the burden of consultation on schools lifted.

The toolkit was put together by a group of teachers and management consultants. It grew out of a pilot project in 14 schools in Derby and Kent where staff worked with consultants to pinpoint ways of reducing the bureaucratic burden.

Small schools are to be given pound;80 million to recruit administrative support staff to free teachers to focus on teaching.

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