Headlines: June 9th, 2004

The Department for Education and Skills launched an initiative in 2003 to bring about a culture change that would limit the burden of bureaucracy on schools, but it is struggling to survive. The initiative was based on Local Education Authorities assessing the burden on schools resulting from changes and setting up gateways to sift out correspondence and other material that was not essential for the school. The gateway was also to be used to co-ordinate requests for data to limit multiple calls on the time of school staff. For the guidelines to work effectively attitudes needed to shift to recognizing that bureaucracy is low in school priorities.A progress report on the initiative reveals that not much has changed. 19% of LEAs. could not trace any documents about the initiative. With one exception the remaining LEA’s in the survey had reviewed their systems, but the researchers found scant evidence of impact assessments to assess the burden of proposed changes. 60% of LEAs believed that their gateway filters for correspondence were successful, but formalized systems for monitoring effectiveness only operated in 38% of LEAs. Only half the LEAs operated the gateway for the whole of the local authority. For the remainder the extension of the gateway was ‘proving challenging’.

The ease of electronic communication is tending to increase the bureaucratic burden. 15% of LEAs restricted the gateway to paper correspondence. In 30 % of local authorities there is an “all schools” e-mail address which is readily available to any member of staff.

A further series of recommendations has been issued by the DfEE to LEAs in a renewed attempt to change the culture.