Reducing bureaucracy for schools - myths and facts

Stephen Smith's picture
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You may have seen this on the DfE website - a document which, the DfE says, outlines a number of common misconceptions "and provides factual information on the current legal position or best practice advice for schools"

Interesting for me that many of the misconceptions seem to things that have been variously made up by the press or by politicians, rather than things arising out of confusion among school workers.

They make fascinating reading - mostly because they point towards a picture of what the Tory government thinks schools are like.

Fairly high on the list is this one :

Behaviour Myth: Teachers must not touch pupils.

Fact. Schools should not have a ‘no touch’ policy. It is often necessary for a teacher to touch a child (e.g. when dealing with accidents or teaching musical instruments). Also, teachers have a specific legal power to use reasonable force. For example, they can use force to remove a pupil who is disrupting a lesson or to prevent a child leaving a classroom.

I can't imagine many teachers didn't know that. It's telling though that they seem to think that schools are just so full of teachers who are chomping at the bit to give pupils a clip round the ear - if only it wasn't for that darned bureaucracy.

Well thankfully they are not.

In amongst these fairly predictable little gems though, there are a few quite worrying statements :

Schools will not instructed on how to spend the pupil premium. (Hooray ! ), but .... The government will produce new performance tables showing the attainment of pupils covered by the premium (ie those known to be eligible for free school meals).

Yes, you read that correctly. In order to reduce bureaucracy, the Government will introduce league tables based on the performance of children entitled to free school meals.

And there's more ..

Did you think Headteachers had to have an NPQH qualification ? Nooo - it's a myth - if they're head of an independent school or ... an Academy ... then they don't have to.

At a stroke, they have devalued, and effectively assigned to history, the most valued piece of training ever provided for Headteachers. All that time you spent getting your evidence together ? - Forget it - once you become and academy you won't need it.

And finally I'll bring your attention to this one :

Myth: We have to follow BB98/BB99 when designing and building schools.

BB98./99 are what's known as building bulletins. They're government provided guidance on the sie and standards of school buildings. For instance they give guidance on how many classrooms you put into a six forms of entry comprehensive, how many toilets, how many science labs, and so on.

During Building Schools for the Future negotiations they became very contentious, because they've been designed to provide a minimum "compliance" figure, but as the government used them to calculate BSF payments, they effectively also became a maximum standard - you're allowed to build a school as big as you like, but we'll only fund to the BB specification.

But now we get the mybusters from the DfE telling us that they aren't statutory - we knew that. And what's this ? "They will be revised in the near future, and we expect that it will be possible to construct and design a school in smaller premises."

This is scarcely credible - guidance that was criticised barely 18 months ago for making us build schools that were too small, is now being re-vamped - to allow us to build them even smaller.

This is obviously good news for all those people who are just longing to set up a Free school in their attic, and I suspect that this is precisely the intention of the proposed change in Building Bulletin guidance.

I wish I had the time to go through the whole document throughly - but like most teachers at the beginning of September, I simply haven't. I suspect that's no coincidence either.
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