‘Brutal’ Ofsted inspections not fit for purpose, says head teachers’ union

Ofsted inspections are a “brutal process” and they need to change, the vice-president of the National Association of Head Teachers has said.

Simon Kidwell believes “the framework that underpins the inspection needs redesigning”, declaring that it is “not fit for purpose and it’s not working”.

Ofsted has been under scrutiny after Ruth Perry, a head teacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, Berkshire, took her own life in January while awaiting its report which downgraded her school from the highest rating to the lowest.

Ofsted protest
A vigil for Ruth Perry was held outside the offices of Ofsted following her death (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Kidwell told Times Radio: “The tragedy of Ruth Perry, that could have been us.

“I’ve been at my school for 12 years and if somebody had said your school is inadequate after 12 years, that’s half my leadership journey.

“It would just have been a devastating impact on my own personal health and also the school, because the school now will have to be academised. It’s got that label, so it’s a brutal process.”

A boycott is not an option because “Ofsted needs the legal entry for schools”, he said.

Mr Kidwell, who said Ofsted visited his school earlier this month, also told the programme: “I’ve got to say they were a very good team, they really did go and take staff wellbeing into account.

National Association of Head Teachers annual conference
Ruth Perry’s sister Julia Waters addressed the NAHT conference on Saturday (NAHT/PA)

“However, it was a very intense procedure and two of my staff have really struggled with that inspection process.

“They’re (Ofsted) putting far too much accountability on classroom teachers rather than just school leaders.”

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman has previously said she has no “reason to doubt” the inspection before the death of Ms Perry.

An inspection report published on Ofsted’s website in March found Ms Perry’s school to be “good” in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be “inadequate”.

Delegates at the NAHT’s annual conference in Telford observed a one-minute silence on Saturday in memory of Ms Perry.

In a speech to the conference, her sister Julia Waters called on Ofsted and the Government to “show some humanity and sensitivity” and take “urgent, meaningful actions” to reform the inspection system.

An Ofsted spokesman has said: “Our inspections are first and foremost for children and their parents, looking in depth at the quality of education, behaviour, and how well and safely schools are run.

“We always want inspections to be constructive and collaborative and in the vast majority of cases school leaders agree that they are.”