We'll cut school red tape, says minister

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN BYERS, the schools minister, moved to head off a summer of strife in schools yesterday by promising swift action to cut teachers' workloads.

Mr Byers made an unscheduled visit to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' conference in Bournemouth for talks to avert industrial action over school bureaucracy.

He intervened on the eve of the largest teaching conference to reassure teachers that Government plans would make action unnecessary.

He said "When the unions are fully aware of how the government intends to implement the recommendations of the bureaucracy working group there will be no reason for them to take industrial action."

Both the National Union of Teachers, whose conference starts today and the NASUWT union has voted to boycott excessive meetings and other bureaucracy from the start of the summer term. The moderate ATL is backing industrial action over workload as a last resort.

Mr Byers said "We want teachers to concentrate on raising standards and providing high-quality education. We do not want them to be diverted into becoming paper-pushers."

Mr Byers said specific measures would be outlined over the next few days and warned that disruption to government policies would not be tolerated.

Earlier, Peter Smith, ATL general-secretary, told the conference that efforts to cut paperwork were taking too long to filter down to the classroom.

A survey of 4,000 youngsters found 62 per cent thought teaching was too stressful to consider as a career. Mr Smith said. "Isn't it interesting when the pupils in the class now understand the stress of teaching them. It's not only no good for teachers, it's no good for pupils either."