Teachers divided over paperwork reduction

By Alex Stevenson

Teachers’ unions have given a mixed response after being told they will no longer have to complete the school self-evaluation form (SEF).

Education secretary Michael Gove announced that headteachers would save time as well as tens of thousands of pounds by not having to complete the paperwork.

“The coalition government trusts teachers to get on with the job,” he said.

“That’s why we are taking steps to reduce the bureaucracy they face and give them the powers they need to do a good job.”

The SEF is not a statutory requirement but schools will still have to provide evidence of self-evaluation under inspector Ofsted’s existing guidelines, the NASUWT teachers’ union pointed out.

Its general secretary, Chris Keates, called the move “nothing more than a cosmetic exercise”.

“The secretary of state’s decision is likely to result in more rather than less workload and bureaucracy for schools,” she said.

“There is already strong evidence that many schools are likely to respond to this by piling pressure on to classroom teachers, with excessive planning and record-keeping in order to provide evidence for future inspections.”

The National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) general secretary Christine Blower disagreed, calling the SEF “arid and time-consuming”.

“The NUT has a very long-standing policy that school self evaluation is a good thing,” she said.

“If the announcement today is the first step on the road to fundamentally changing the current inspection regime then it is very much to be welcomed.”

The scrapping of the mandatory SEF requirement is part of wider efforts by Mr Gove to hand more power to teachers.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families flagged up the drive towards academy status, the abolition of three quangos and shifting Ofsted’s inspection framework by “reducing the burden on teachers” as evidence of other steps being taken to this end.