HC Deb 27 July 1999 vol 336 cc189-90W
Mr. Hawkins

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what has been the increase in the(a) staff and (b) expenditure of the Standards and Effectiveness Unit since its inception; and what assessment he has made of the impact of this increase on (i) the bureaucratic burdens on schools and (ii) the number of circulars issued by his Department. [93312]

Ms Estelle Morris

At its inception in May 1997 the number of staff in the Unit was 44, this rose to 107 in May 1998 and at the end of June 1999 stood at 152. The budget for the Unit in 1997–98 was £2.4 million; for 1998–99, £4.8 million; and for 1999–2000 it is £5.9 million. The numbers of staff in the Unit must be viewed against the numbers of staff and budget for the Department as a whole, both of which have remained stable over the last two years. The increase of staff in the Unit, therefore, reflects a refocusing of resources towards our top priority of raising standards in schools.

The increased resources devoted to the Standards and Effectiveness Unit have led to a clearer focus on raising standards in schools, not to increased bureaucracy. The work of the Unit has not led to any significant increase in the number of circulars issued by the Department over the last three years. We draw a clear distinction between unnecessary bureaucratic activity, which hinders teachers' efforts to raise standards, and those activities that are integral to achieving higher standards. We have provided training and support materials as part of the strategies to improve standards in key areas such as literacy and numeracy and this has been welcomed by teachers.

Following a systematic review of bureaucracy, the Department has initiated firm action to reduce the burden on schools.