Stopping school inspections not in children's best interest, says Ofsted chief

·3-min read
Stopping school inspections not in children's best interest, says Ofsted chief <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Stopping school inspections not in children's best interest, says Ofsted chief (Image: PA)

The head of the school watchdog Ofsted has said that it wouldn’t be in the best interests of children to stop inspections following calls for them to be paused.

This follows the death of Caversham headteacher, Ruth Perry, who passed away whilst waiting for an Ofsted report that would have downgraded Caversham Primary School to an inadequate rating.

Levelling-Up secretary, Michael Gove said that although Ofsted plays a ‘vital role’ in assessing school performance, he suggested that ratings need to be ‘looked at’ when considering overall inadequate reports.

In a statement, the chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that the news had been “met with great sadness at Ofsted” and acknowledged that school inspections “can be challenging” as she said inspectors always aim to carry them out with “sensitivity as well as professionalism”.

She acknowledged the debate about reforming inspections to remove grades “is a legitimate one” but insisted school checks aim to raise standards and should continue.

She said: “The sad news about Ruth has led to an understandable outpouring of grief and anger from many people in education. There have been suggestions about refusing to co-operate with inspections, and union calls to halt them entirely.

“I don’t believe that stopping or preventing inspections would be in children’s best interests. Our aim is to raise standards so that all children get a great education. It is an aim we share with every teacher in every school.

“Inspection plays an important part. Among other things, it looks at what children are being taught, assesses how well behaviour is being taught and managed, and checks that teachers know what to do if children are being abused or harmed.

“We help parents understand how their child’s school is doing and we help schools understand their strengths and areas for improvement. It’s important for that work to continue.”

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Gove paid tribute to Ms Perry saying that she was a ‘talented and passionately committed person’.

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

Mr Gove said the four grades used by Ofsted: outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate, are “important”.

The cabinet minister went on: “But there is one issue which I do feel we need to reflect on and look at which is that if a school is found to have failed its safeguarding criteria, then that is what is called a limiting judgment and if a school is found inadequate in that area, that means it is inadequate overall, even if it has strong teaching and learning and its other areas are good as well.

“Safeguarding is the set of rules that govern the wellbeing of children within the school, the health and safety and protection and so on.

“I do think we need to look at the way in which a limiting judgment as it’s called, a technical term, means that a failure in one area means failure everywhere else – but that is not a criticism of Ofsted.

Ofsted do a great job, the Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman is someone absolutely committed to supporting teachers to do better.”