Lift regulatory burden on schools says Committee

13 March 2009

The House of Lords Merits Committee has today said that the time has come for the Government to adopt a less heavy-handed approach in its relationship with schools. The Committee argues for less Government reliance on Regulations, in order to leave greater room for the professionalism of practitioners to deliver the objectives of improving education.

The Committee today publishes the report of its inquiry into the cumulative impact on schools of statutory instruments. The inquiry was prompted by the finding that in the 2006-07 session schools were the subject of around 100 different sets of regulations made by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

Evidence from schools’ representatives has convinced the Committee that the Department need to overhaul their approach, and actively to manage the planning and production of secondary legislation and guidance. Too many Regulations are currently introduced piecemeal, throughout the school year. The Committee concludes that DCSF should bring schools-related instruments into force on a single date, and give schools at least a term’s notice to prepare to implement them. The Committee recommends that the Department should lay all schools-related regulations in April and bring them into force on 1 September.

The Committee has also found that DCSF rarely reviews the effect of the regulations that it imposes. As a consequence, the Department does not know whether a statutory instrument has achieved its policy objective. The Committee calls on the Department to review the implementation of all significant regulations.

Commenting Lord Filkin, Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments, said:

"The Schools Minister told us that many of today’s schools are led by highly able, brilliant, and skilled professionals. The evidence that we received from witnesses who talked to our Committee confirmed this assessment.

"The Committee has concluded that able, brilliant and skilled professionals do not thrive when their energies are absorbed by the need to comply with a raft of detailed requirements. If the Government makes the broad objectives clear, practitioners should be given the freedom to deliver using their own skill and experience, without the need for wide-ranging prescription.

"We call on the Department to shift its primary focus away from the regulation of processes through statutory instruments, towards establishing accountability for the delivery of key outcomes."

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