Ruth Perry: Ofsted resists calls to halt school inspections after headteacher's death

·3-min read

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 headteacher 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 said Ms Perry's 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.

However, Paul Whiteman, of the National Association 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."

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.

Lisa Telling, executive headteacher at Katesgrove and Southcote Primary School in Reading, who had known Ms Perry for 20 years, also said that inspections should be paused for a while.

She said that her personal experience the last time one of her schools underwent an Ofsted inspection was that it was "incredibly stressful" and that she only got around five hours of sleep during the three days inspectors were there.

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Ms Telling told Sky News she had removed all references to Ofsted from her schools' website, saying she doesn't "want to be judged on what Ofsted says about us. We don't agree with the one-word gradings. One word doesn't sum up a school."

She added that none of the teachers working for her at her schools wanted to go on to be headteachers because of the pressures of the role.

Discussing her friendship with Ms Perry, she described her as the "most wonderful person".

"She loved being a headteacher," Ms Telling said. "She loved the community, she loved her school. She was passionate about education and also supported fellow headteachers.

"Talking to her just made you feel better. She was genuinely one of the warmest most wonderful human beings and it's really difficult to accept that she's no longer with us."

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 headteacher 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 headteachers said they plan to stage peaceful protests - including wearing black clothing and armbands and displaying photographs of Ms Perry around buildings - when Ofsted inspections take place.

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