Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Expectations 'too high' say heads

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter, at the ASCL conference

Dr John Dunford
'Initiative-itis' is a danger, Dr Dunford says

Schools are expected to take on too many roles and have impossible expectations heaped upon them, head teachers are warning.

The Association of School and College Leaders says policy making is running out of control, as ministers assume schools are "doing things badly".

The ASCL said the Department for Children, Schools and Families carried out 79 policy consultations in 2008.

But the government says they have never done more to consult on new policies.

General secretary Dr John Dunford said there was a danger of "initiative-itis" and urged the government to be clear about its priorities.

The ASCL suggests there may be even more initiatives next year.

"Government should trust more and regulate less," he said.

"Although ministers and officials want to do good, I sometimes think that the purpose that drives the government is its belief in the power of legislation.

"There is just too much policy, too quickly introduced."


ASCL president Jane Lees said schools were under huge pressure from all sides.

"We cannot deliver all the high expectations heaped on us by society and by the DCSF," she said.

Addressing delegates at the ASCL annual conference in Birmingham, she said: "I do worry that, schools being a universal service, are being tasked with too many roles and impossible expectations.

"What is clear is that there are too many different partnerships. Every time there is a new policy or initiative we seem to form another one."

Mrs Lees said the role of head teacher had become more challenging and complex and spoke of the "sheer weight of accountability" upon a head teacher's shoulders.

She warned that this was discouraging talented senior teachers from applying for headships.

"It's putting people off applying for jobs because the level of accountability is just so immense."

But a spokesperson for the Department for Education, Schools and Families says the considerations of front-line teachers are always taken into account in policy making.

"There have been a lot of new policies recently but they have helped to raise standards to an all time high.

"They have ensured that where 10 years ago half of all schools would have been underperforming by today's strict standards, it is now less than one in five and falling all the time."

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