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2.46 An important part of making teaching and school leadership more attractive is that we should reduce unnecessary prescription and bureaucracy. It is not necessary for government to issue detailed advice or instruction about most matters which are the responsibility of schools. Head teachers and teachers enter education because they are guided by a sense of moral purpose and a desire to help children and young people succeed. They do not need to be patronised, directed and hectored at every turn. We will not approach every issue or problem with the starting assumption that another government directive, circular or statutory duty is the answer.
2.47 Instead, we will make sure that head teachers and teachers feel empowered to do what they think is right, know where they can go for support if they want it and are accountable for the results they achieve. These principles apply both to teaching and learning, and the wider support schools provide to their pupils and their families.
2.48 The majority of the important work that schools do is not as a result of government prescription – for example intervening early and offering additional support to pupils who need it, protecting pupils from harm, and working with their local communities. Good schools play a vital role as promoters of health and wellbeing in the local community and have always had good pastoral systems. They understand well the connections between pupils’ physical and mental health, their safety, and their educational achievement. They create an ethos focused on achievement for all, where additional support is offered early to those who need it, and where the right connections are made to health, social care and other professionals who can help pupils overcome whatever barriers to learning are in their way. Good schools work with parents, community organisations and local agencies to create a healthy, safe and respectful environment in school, after school, and on the way to and from school. Good teachers instil an ethos where aspiration is the best reason for children to avoid harmful behaviour.
‘Supporting pupils’ health and wellbeing is something we are committed to at Culloden Primary School – because this is the right thing to do. We don’t need the government to tell us that we should be doing this, or how we should do it.’
Bill Holledge, head teacher of Culloden primary school
2.49 So we will remove statutory duties and requirements which we do not think need to be a legal requirement. Many of these requirements are ‘declaratory’ – they have little practical force – or else cannot reasonably be policed and enforced. Legislating in these areas is in our view ineffective: at most it reinforces a compliance culture in schools, which is undesirable; at worst it brings the law into disrepute as some schools feel able to ignore such duties, while other schools change perfectly good practice because they think that they must.
2.50 We will legislate to remove the duty on schools and colleges to cooperate with Children’s Trusts and abolish the requirement for local authorities to produce a Children and Young People’s Plan. Government can leave schools and local authorities to make decisions for themselves in all of these areas – because central government is not as well-placed as local people to make decisions.
2.51 Nationally, we will continue to work with the Department of Health in line with their forthcoming Public Health White Paper, the Home Office and other Departments to ensure that schools have access to high quality, evidence-based information. Locally, we will rely on schools to work together with voluntary, business and statutory agencies to create an environment where every child can learn, where they can experience new and challenging opportunities through extended services, and where school buildings and expertise are contributing to building strong families and communities.
2.52 We will remove prescription on school governing bodies, simplifying the list of decisions that they are required to take. We will allow them, for example, to take decisions about the length of the school day in whatever way they consider appropriate.
2.53 We are also removing the expectation on every school to complete a centrally designed self evaluation form. We strongly support the view that good schools evaluate themselves rigorously. But we do not believe that imposing a very long form in a standard format, which requires consideration of many issues which may be of limited importance to a particular school, helps schools to evaluate themselves in a focused way against their priorities.
‘I’m delighted the SEF has gone. It took hours of head teachers’ time or schools were paying consultants thousands of pounds. Working with the head teachers, the Kemnal Academies Trust has improved and reduced the information down to just two sides saving time and money. It did not improve teaching, learning or exam results.’
Diane Khanna, head teacher of Welling School
2.54 We support the idea that good schools set themselves targets, identify the strengths and weaknesses that might either help or hinder them to achieve those targets, and come up with a plan for succeeding. But having a centralised target-setting process, in which central government challenges local government to come up with a large number of targets which add up to the ideal national total, and local government challenges schools to come up with targets which add up to the local authority total, does not help schools to succeed with more pupils. Instead it creates a dynamic in which the centre tries to argue targets up and the locality tries to argue them down – the very opposite of the aspirational approach we want to see and most schools would naturally follow. So we are ending centralised target-setting for schools.
2.55 Similarly, we support the idea that teachers should have a plan for their lessons. But that doesn’t mean imposing a centralised planning template on schools. So we will make clear that neither the Government nor Ofsted require written lesson plans, let alone in a particular format. And we support the view that skilled and precise assessment of pupils’ work – both of the level at which children are working and of what they should be learning next – is an essential part of good teaching. But we do not need to impose national requirements as to how this should be done. So we will not be prescriptive about the use of the ‘Assessing Pupil Progress’ materials and the new National Curriculum will not specify the methods teachers use.
2.56 And while good financial management is important, we will abolish the Financial Management Standard in Schools (FMSiS) because it has become a tick-box paper exercise, taking far too much of head teachers’ time without providing real confidence in the quality of a school’s financial management. We will replace it with something simpler and more effective.
‘FMSiS was a bureaucratic burden on schools and did not equate to good financial management. The scrapping of it has freed up the business manager’s time to work on the school budget rather than on a piece of paper to show how the school manages its budget.’
Christian Cavanagh, head teacher of Debden Park High School
2.57 As well as specific duties and requirements, there is so much guidance in circulation that it is virtually impossible for even the most conscientious head teacher or chair of governors to absorb it all. Having a total of over 600 pages of guidance on improving behaviour and tackling bullying is not a sign of diligence or of taking the issue seriously. It is a counter-productive exercise and wastes teachers’ time.
2.58 So we are reviewing all existing guidance, aiming to remove what is not necessary and sharply cut back what is left. We aim to establish a simple, definitive suite of guidance which can reasonably be read by a head teacher over a half-term break. Getting to there from this point will take some time, but we intend to make guidance on key areas short and clear about what schools have to do, should do and can choose to do.
2.59 Through taking these steps we will free schools from externally imposed burdens and give them greater confidence to set their own direction.
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