Schools risk becoming Tesco identikits

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The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has warned that schools are in danger of becoming identikit schools, in which teachers are prevented from showing flair.

Dr John Dunford said the system had become over-centralised and over-bureaucratic in recent years, with staff spending more time complying with new Government edicts than educating children, it was claimed.

Last year, schools were forced to deal with almost 80 new policy documents, and local authority children's departments faced visits from Government advisors and inspectors up to 300 times in just 12 months.

Speaking at the ASCL annual conference in Birmingham, Dr Dunford said it was ironic that ministers were attempting to bring diversity into the education system - creating different types of schools, such as academies - while at the same time imposing more regulation.

"The truth is that diversity is a political pretence, a paper-thin cover for a system that has become over-centralised and over-bureaucratic," he said.

"In this Tesco management model of England Schools plc, heads are the branch managers, teachers the shelf fillers and bursars the account technicians - part of a 'delivery chain' that is about as far from my vision of school leadership as it is possible to get - all summed up in that dreadful word 'compliance'.

"Compliance, I used to read in management books, is the lowest form of commitment, to be encouraged in those who have no job flexibility, no initiative and limited intelligence. Is this what ministers really want of their school leaders? I sincerely hope not. Yet that's how it sometimes feels."

His comments come after Ed Balls was urged by a House of Lords committee to be less heavy-handed with schools and to stop deluging them with new regulations a year.

The report, warmly welcomed by headteachers, went on to say that the "juggernaut of policies, laws and regulations is hurtling at ever increasing speed towards us, seemingly out of control".


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