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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 16:01 GMT
Forms kept away save minutes a day
school secretary
Savings equate to a month's work, government says
Ministers reckon that their efforts to cut red tape in schools have saved about three minutes a day for every teacher in England and Wales.

The Education Secretary David Blunkett says he is on target to meet his pledge to head teachers to halve the amount of paperwork coming across their desks.

And he says a new electronic system to record information about all pupils will enable greater progress to be made.

But teachers say there is still a mountain to climb.

The Department for Education and Employment and the Cabinet Office say that their joint initiative will save a typical school 200 hours of paperwork a year, or the equivalent of a month's work for one person.

Overall this amounted to 4.5 million hours. Split between 410,000 teachers that equates to about three minutes apiece.

'Significant saving'

At a news conference, the Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, said she could not say how the saving translated into extra teaching time.

But she said: "I don't sniff at the difference that I think this will make - I think it is significant.

"If there is a saving for administrative staff then that frees them up to do work that helps teachers in the classroom."

Two thousand schools are to take part in a pilot version of the new electronic data scheme, starting in January.

It will mean that when pupils transfer between schools, a single set of data can transfer with them rendering obsolete the current paper transfer form.

Unions positive

The Cabinet Office Minister, Mo Mowlam, said it would enable schools more easily to keep track of the estimated one million children who change schools each year.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the drive to cut bureaucracy "enables secondary schools to concentrate on the needs of all their pupils, irrespective of abilities, and last but not least, it enables the vital process of transition from primary to secondary education."

The general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Doug McAvoy, welcomed the initiative but added: "The Cabinet Office is only at the foothills of the mountains of bureaucracy created by the education department."

"The next step must be to halt the constant stream of initiatives landing on the backs of teachers for implementation.

"The Cabinet Office must impose its will on the DfEE and protect teachers," he said.

Tories derisive

The Department for Education said that since the new school year began in September, primary schools had been sent 30 fewer items than last year, saving 1,170 pages.

Of the 490 pages they had received, 216 were from the new grammar guide designed to improve pupils' writing.

The other main items were the annual school and pupil performance information.

In secondary schools, there had been 44 fewer items this year saving 737 pages.

The shadow education secretary, Theresa May, said David Blunkett's record on bureaucracy was appalling.

"Over the past year he has sent out a communication for every hour a teacher was supposed to be working," she said.

"Schools are losing the equivalent of 17 million lessons a year of teachers' time dealing with the mountain of paperwork.

"Does Mr Blunkett really think teachers will sigh with relief when they hear about their extra three minutes a day?"

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See also:

11 Nov 00 | Education
Woodhead delivers parting shot
14 Sep 00 | Education
Heads join red tape boycott
28 Jul 00 | Education
Schools sink in sea of paper
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