City headteacher calls for Ofsted change after under-fire head's death
A CITY headteacher has called for ‘change’ in how schools are inspected following the death of a fellow head who took her own life.
Neil Morris, headteacher at Christopher Whitehead Language College in Worcester, said he would like to see Ofsted inspections overhauled as a result of the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.
The family of Ms Perry, who was head of a primary school in Reading, said she took her own life ahead of the publication of an Ofsted inspection which downgraded her ‘outstanding’ primary school to ‘inadequate.’
The head of the Bromwich Road school said there was an “absolute need” for accountability and inspections but often found Ofsted’s ratings “too simplistic” and that ‘something should change’ in light of Ms Perry’s death – adding that he, and many other teachers, were experiencing dropping confidence in the school watchdog.
Mr Morris also said the pressure of Ofsted was driving many teachers away and was a “huge factor” in putting people off teaching.
Ms Perry’s family blamed Ofsted and the “intolerable pressure” it had put her under for her death which led to unions calling for inspections to be halted.
This resulted in one headteacher revealing that she planned to block Ofsted from her school in protest – calling on other heads to do the same.
Despite the dwindling trust in Ofsted, Mr Morris would not say whether he was prepared to block inspectors from the doors of Christopher Whitehead but did say he would scrap judgments altogether in favour of a ‘report card’ system.
“I would say that a lot of us in the profession are not very confident about the worth of Ofsted,” he said.
“I’ve had times where we have been awarded ‘outstanding’ and I didn’t feel that we were ‘outstanding’ but at the same time, there have been times when we have had not-so-good ratings and I felt we were much better than that.
“I think there is an absolute need for accountability and inspections, but I think Ofsted can be quite simplistic,” he added.
“If it was me, I would do no judgements and just have a report card.”
The ‘report card’ system is being pushed by Labour as an alternative to Ofsted’s current grading system – which rates schools either outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate – and would instead show where schools are succeeding and need improving but so far the proposal, which would only be brought in after consulting with schools, has little detail.
Mr Morris said he would push for Ofsted to use ‘regional’ teams of inspectors with a better knowledge of the ‘patch’– adding that the ‘stress and pressure’ of inspections was not only pushing people away from teaching but blocking people from joining in the first place.
“A lot of the inspectors can come and throw a grenade up and never go back to the school again,” he said.
“I think people might not understand that inspections involve quite a lot of preparation and there’s so much stress and so much pressure that people, in the end, will just no longer want to do the job.
“I think people are being put off doing the job and Ofsted is a huge factor in putting people off.”
Mr Morris said all schools were “vulnerable” regardless of a particular grade from Ofsted because they did not have the money or the support from the government.
“Nobody often looks behind the judgements,” he said. “Worcestershire has been one of the worst-funded for schools I’d say for at least the last 30 years.”