Headlines: December 5th, 2006



A national review team, including head teachers and senior staff, is calling for more to be done to limit the burdens placed on schools. The twelve members of the Implementation Review Unit say some good progress is being made but the Department for Education and Skills, local authorities, government agencies, other government departments and even schools themselves should do much more to free people to focus on improving teaching and learning.

In their annual statement the IRU members say the current economic and social climate means that the expectations placed on schools will continue to grow and they set out a number of steps they believe are necessary to manage those expectations. First they are urging the Department to work harder to make its promised new relationship with schools a reality and they believe it should exert greater influence over local authorities, national agencies, regional government offices and other departments to limit the burdens they place on schools. Schools, the IRU team say, must play a large part themselves in reducing bureaucracy by being more assertive about the initiatives they adopt and should reject any that do not meet their needs.

Dr Chris Nicholls, Chair of the IRU and head of a high school in Essex, said, “Our message to colleagues working in schools is that under the new relationship promised by government we are entitled to choose ourselves which of the multitude of non-statutory initiatives we pursue. We need to base those choices on what will most help the children in our care.”

School leaders, he said, were clear about the need to meet statutory obligations but for the many other non-statutory initiatives they needed confidence to resist the pressures imposed on schools to pursue all of them. Dr Nicholls said he was convinced that to make progress on burdens and bureaucracy, school staff needed to be more assertive in resisting some of the unnecessary demands made on them. He said the new relationship offered a lever to challenge the Department, local authority, regional office and national agency staff to prove how their initiatives fitted with the school. School Leaders should be ready to challenge Ofsted where an inspection team wanted to mark a school down for non-participation in a national or local initiative rather than look at what the school was achieving for its pupils.