Stopping school inspections not in children’s best interests, says Ofsted

UK

Stopping or preventing school inspections would not be in “children’s best interests”, Ofsted has said.

It follows calls from teachers and school leaders to halt inspections following the death of head teacher Ruth Perry, who killed herself in January while awaiting an Ofsted report that downgraded her school, Caversham Primary in Reading, from outstanding to inadequate due to “safeguarding” issues.

A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has more than 110,000 signatures.

But Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said “inspection plays an important part,” in maintaining standards in education as it looks at “what children are being taught”, assesses “behaviour” and “checks that teachers know what to do if children are being abused or harmed… it’s important for that work to continue”.

Ms Spielman had included a tribute to Ms Perry saying her “death was met with great sadness at Ofsted” and that an “outpouring of grief and anger from many people in education” was understandable – but declined to halt inspections.

Ruth Perry was headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading. Pic: Caversham Primary School
Image:
Ruth Perry. Pic: Caversham Primary School

However, Paul Whiteman, of the National Federation of Head Teachers’ Associations (NAHT), said the decision not to pause inspections “even for a short period, was a terrible mistake”.

“It only serves to reinforce the view that Ofsted is tin-eared and shows scant regard for the wellbeing of school leaders.”

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He added that the union was “not against inspection” but instead would be for a “fairer, more humane approach” which they believe parents would support.

The National Education Union said replacing Ofsted with a new agency “would be good for children”.

Deputy General Secretary Niamh Sweeney said: “What is not in children’s best interests is head teacher burnout and beloved class teachers leaving. What is not in children’s interests is ploughing on with a pretence that this is the only approach to inspecting schools.”

Schools have been removing logos and references to Ofsted ratings from their websites as a mark of solidarity with Ms Perry and heads said they plan to stage peaceful protests – including wearing black clothing and armbands and displaying photographs of Ms Perry around the school – when Ofsted inspections take place.

Ofsted said that changes to the current system would have to meet parental and governmental criteria.

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