A RETIRING headteacher claims Government red tape is damaging children’s education.

John Watts, who is stepping down after more than 14 years at the helm of Heathlands Primary School, in West Bergholt, said too much bureacracy was wasting valuable teaching time.

The 61-year-old, who started his teaching career at Colchester’s North Primary in 1970, called for teachers to have more control over what is taught in schools.

Mr Watts, who was deputy headteacher at Chelmsford’s Cathedral School before joining Heathlands in 1995, said: “When I started teaching, it was very child centred.

“I think it has become more and more bureaucratic and I don’t think it enhances education at all.

“There have been advantages with the general curriculum, however it has almost become too structured.

“I think most teachers are professional enough to know what to do and schools should have far more independence with the curriculum.

“The schools that do well should be left alone to do it.

“There is far too much talk of data, which is unnecessary.

“The most important thing is getting children inspired, to encourage them into life-long learning.”

He claimed SATS and league tables also had a negative effect on schools.

“My real frustration is with league tables. They don’t tell the full picture, if you have children away, they count, if you have children with special needs, they count.

“Schools in challenging circumstances can often work really hard, but because the children don’t achieve highly in league tables they are made to suffer for it.

“The most important thing is the school as a community.

“Schools are all about people, you still need high standards but you get that if you have the right relationship with your staff.”

He said the death of pupil Daniel Mullinger two years ago, in a freak accident on a school trip in Norfolk, had altered his perspective.

“That was the biggest blow in my career.

“But it brought out a tremendous sense of community within the village and, secondly, it taught me what life was about.

“It’s about people and it makes the whole political agenda of education so trivial.

“It’s all about bonding with children and getting the best out of children, and it’s about having good relationships with the staff, who also had to get over that.”

He said he had most enjoyed learning of the achievements of former pupils.

“Some who were pupils when I first came to the school have gone on to university and their first jobs, that is the most rewarding parts of it.

“Many of them come to fetes and the village fair and it’s really nice to hear how they are getting on.”

Although Mr Watts is looking forward to retired life, he will remain on Heathlands board of governors and will carry out some teacher training work at Anglia Ruskin University.

He plans to spend more time with his wife, Pauline, 61, daughters Rachel, 29, and Claire, 31, and two grandchildren as well as driving his Sixties Morris Minor and continuing his work as a parish councillor.

He will be replaced by Neil Matthews, who is leaving his role as headteacher at Montgomery Junior School, in Baronswood Way, Colchester, after three and a half years.