‘Teachers miss funerals and go to work sick for Ofsted inspections’

·3-min read

Teachers miss funerals and go to work sick to ensure they are present for Ofsted inspections, a former teacher has said at a vigil for late head Ruth Perry.

Amanda Bentham, who used to teach in Tower Hamlets, east London, has also seen pupils with poor academic results asked not to attend school on inspection days.

Ms Bentham told the PA news agency that she had “sleepless nights” over the watchdog’s inspections when she was teaching.

Ofsted protest
James Denny, George Binette and Amanda Bentham at the Department for Education (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

She said: “I’ve seen people who have had to take medications to get them through Ofsted, people who’ve missed funerals that they should have attended because they felt they had to be there, people coming into school ill, sick.

“I’ve seen pupils being taken out of school or asked not to come in because perhaps their behaviour or their results are not what the school wants Ofsted to see.”

She told PA that “everyone” who has ever worked in a school has felt the pressure of inspections.

The former teacher, a member of the National Education Union (NEU), called Ofsted a “toxic body” and supported the union’s petition calling for the watchdog to be replaced by a fairer system.

Recalling an Ofsted inspection that took place when she was teaching in east London, Ms Bentham told PA that one inspector required an “escort” to walk her from the car park into the school because she thought it was “so dangerous”.

“That really doesn’t engender trust among the staff. They don’t feel that a person who doesn’t trust the community that they are walking through to get to the school can possibly really have a valid judgment on the school,” Ms Bentham added.

James Denny, a parent from Reading, organised the vigil but did not know Ms Perry.

He told PA he knew of a teacher suffering a stroke following an Ofsted inspection.

He added: “Nowadays the regime is just intolerable, and it causes our school leaders and our school teachers to be in school for vast numbers of hours. They have to neglect themselves, they neglect their families just to get their school right for the Ofsted inspection.”

Mr Denny also said he knows “former inspectors of Ofsted” who are saying that “change is due”.

Deputy general secretary of the NEU, Niamh Sweeney, handed in a petition calling for the watchdog to be replaced by a “supportive, effective and fair” system, to the Department for Education earlier on Thursday.

She told PA that mentioning the word “Ofsted” to teachers, school leaders or pupils will generate fear and anxiety.

“If you mention the word Ofsted, even to children, if you mention the word Ofsted to seasoned professionals, people who have been teaching for 20 years, there is a physical and an emotional reaction to that,” she said.

“It generates fear, it generates anxiety. Teachers and school leaders have sleepless nights about a judgment, a one-word judgment over a two-day period that can end their career and label a school community.”

The NEU is calling for Ofsted to be “dismantled” and replaced by a “whole new system”.

Ofsted protest
Niamh Sweeney outside the Department for Education (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The petition, signed by more than 45,000 people, predates Ms Perry’s death.

It states that teachers and school leaders work under a “shadow” cast by the watchdog and that the workload generated by Ofsted is a “major factor” in “appalling” teacher retention rates that “blight” English education.

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