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Teachers: Bureaucracy

Volume 463: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps were taken to reduce the bureaucratic burden on teachers in each year since 2000-01; and if he will make a statement. (149935)

Since 2000-01 the Government have taken a number of actions to address the bureaucratic burden on teachers and we continue to work to ensure that teachers’ time is spent on key activities that support teaching and learning.

The key to helping schools and teachers on the ground is the new relationship with schools. The Department has built a new relationship with schools aimed at reducing bureaucratic burdens on them while reinforcing school autonomy at the same time as sharpening school accountability. This relationship included the introduction of a new inspection framework which halves the time and effort schools expend on inspection while focusing inspection even more closely on improving teaching and learning. The new relationship is also supporting and simplifying schools’ external accountability by the deployment of a nationally accredited school improvement partner to every school.

The Government, employers and a majority of school work force unions signed ‘Raising Standards and Tackling Workload: a National Agreement’ in 2003. This set out a number of changes to teachers’ contracts intended to bring downward pressure on working hours, and these were implemented between 2003 and 2005.

The agreement included a provision that teachers could no longer be required routinely to undertake a range of administrative or clerical tasks.

Implementation of the national agreements’ provisions have been overseen by the Workforce agreement monitoring group (made up of the Agreement’s signatories) and the group continues to work to ensure that teachers and head teachers have conditions of service which enable them to focus on their core roles of teaching and leading and managing teaching and learning.

In 2003, my Department also set up the implementation review unit comprising representatives from among head teachers, teachers and support staff currently working in schools. Appointed through an open, public appointments process, this was the first ever panel of this type to scrutinise the work of a major Government Department. Working independently of, but in partnership with the Department and its agencies, the IRU both challenges and supports the Department on examining policy design and implementation from a burdens and bureaucracy perspective.

We have also rationalised data collections and set up a system to ensure that we collect only essential data from schools, scrutinised by external practitioners through a star chamber board on which head teachers sit. Wherever possible, data are collected by sample. The data are collected once only and used many times. This has led to a significant decrease in the number of requests for new data from schools.

The Department takes the views of schools and teachers very seriously. Discussions with head teachers and detailed research showed that schools wanted to be able to choose the printed publications they needed, when they needed them, and to be able to order multiple copies. In response to this, we stopped regular paper mailings to all schools; and since December 2004, have successfully introduced an online ordering service where schools are now able to either download or order paper based copies of publications they need. A regular fortnightly e-mail is sent to schools to inform them of new publications.