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Watchdog is not a poodle, says head

THE new schools' bureaucracy watchdog will have to tackle more than paperwork if it is to ease teacher workload, its chairman has said.

Chris Nicholls believes that, to make a difference, the implementation review unit, a panel of school staff, will also have to consider fundamental issues such as whether ministers should slow down the pace of reform.

"Change is necessary or progress cannot be achieved," he said. "The question of whether it is too much, too quick is legitimate and I see asking that as part of our role."

The unit, which met for the first time last month, has yet to reach any conclusions.

But Dr Nicholls, head of Moulsham high in Chelmsford, Essex, said the Government had taken a brave step in setting up what could be a very influential body. The panel, made up of nine heads, two senior teachers and a school bursar, originated from the teacher workload agreement. Ministers hope it will bring them a grassroots perspective on red tape in schools.

Dr Nicholls said it was also an opportunity to examine the impact of Government policy and bring greater coherence and cohesion to the education service.

The unit will take an overview of the Department for Education and Skills'

policies as well as the Office for Standards in Education, and quangos such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Teacher Training Agency.

"Speaking as a head, there is an issue about workload and some of it can be solved by stripping out all the unnecessary paperwork," said Dr Nicholls.

"If you spoke to my teachers they would say that a lot of what really makes their lives difficult is the fundamental work rather than the bureaucracy surrounding it."

The 52-year-old, a former member of the working party monitoring the Government's workload agreement, rejected any suggestion he had been appointed by ministers to toe the line.

"The last thing ministers expect us to do is to make their lives easier."

Teachers can let the IRU know of their workload concerns by calling 020 7273 6273email: iru.panel@dfes.gsi.gov.uk

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