Teachers should not have to fear Ofsted

·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA</span>
Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Your detailed coverage of the death of Ruth Perry (“Stress from Ofsted inspections linked in coroner reports to 10 teacher deaths”, News) raises several questions.

How are Ofsted inspectors selected for this very exacting job? What is their recent experience of schools? What is their training? How is the quality of their work assessed? Most importantly, what evidence is there that Ofsted inspections are more effective in raising school standards than the inspections that were previously carried out by local education authority teams?

LEA teams knew the schools intimately, as a consequence of continuous interaction through pastoral support, classroom observations, the identification and sharing of best practice and in-service training. They knew the catchment areas of each school and were aware of their specific challenges. After an inspection, LEA inspectors and advisers would continue to work with the staff and focus their attention on aspects identified as needing improvement.

There was a strong sense that teachers and inspectors had a common purpose, to provide all the children with the most stimulating and supportive environment for learning that they could. In their different roles, they worked together to achieve this aim: inspectors were the teachers’ critical friend. A far cry, it seems, from the Ofsted regime that appears to generate “a culture of absolute fear”.
David Curtis
Solihull, West Midlands

My normally buoyant, extrovert brother-in-law, a highly experienced primary teacher, had a nervous breakdown as a consequence of a negative Ofsted report.

My dad was a secondary school teacher and remembers educational advisers who would lend support to, rather than take down, teachers. It is time to learn from the tragedies in your report and reform the way we measure “good” schools and think carefully and clearly about what makes a rich education – which should be more than just a score.
Name and address supplied

Refugees merit compassion

Your report that the government’s plan to stop the Channel crossings would see up to 45,000 children barred from refugee status in the UK should give us all pause for thought (News, 19 March).

As the heads of two British organisations that have chronicled the lives and represented the interests of Jewish refugees from Nazism, we are increasingly concerned about the impact of the proposed illegal migration bill and the discourse and language surrounding its formulation.

Your report details efforts to strengthen the government’s ability to ignore our international obligations towards refugees. If passed, the legislation may contravene the Refugee Convention that was created after the chaos that followed the Holocaust, in which millions of people were murdered, rendered stateless and displaced. If “never again” is to become reality rather than a refrain, we must show leadership to open our doors to bring those at risk out of harm’s way. There is some precedent in Britain for doing so. The Kindertransport gave 10,000 mostly Jewish children refuge, but why not their parents and siblings? Any assessment of refugee policy of the 1930s must conclude that more lives could have been saved.

The contributions of those who came is well documented, but who else might similarly have enhanced the cultural and scientific life of this country? Imbued with survivors’ accounts, we are sensitised to the plight of those fleeing oppression, whether through tyranny or war. We urge this and all governments to demonstrate compassion and give safe harbour to those in danger.
Dr Toby Simpson, director of the Wiener Holocaust Library and Michael Newman OBE, chief executive of the Association of Jewish Refugees

Reforming the Met

The Metropolitan police as a functional public serving body is clearly not working and needs to be broken up (“A dysfunctional, disgraced force in need of reform”, Editorial). The great fear, and likelihood, is that Louise Casey’s report will gather dust on the shelf alongside the other reports that have highlighted the repeated failings of the Met.

Political leaders must also take responsibility for the repeated failures and the culture noted within the report. It is within their power to change the leadership, but they have failed to do so and they should also be held accountable for the Met’s repeated failures.

We must not forget that within the police there are countless law-abiding people who devote their lives to ensuring we are safe and who work within a very stressful environment. If Mark Rowley is the right person to fix the Met our political leaders must allow him time and give him the resources to achieve this mammoth task.

Stuart Finegan
Lewes, East Sussex

PR is key to Starmer’s hopes

Will Hutton expressed the hopes of all of us who wish for a better society and see it as realistic because of Britain’s broad, non-sectarian progressive history (“Ignore the detractors – Keir Starmer is a radical who can transform the country”, Comment).

If Starmer wants to be the progressive prime minister Hutton thinks he can be, if he wants to stop Britain’s long-term slow decline, he should not only be making the case for reform louder and clearer, but also discussing coalition and proportional representation with the Greens and SNP. Then we’d see what a real, non-sectarian, broad-based progressive alliance could do. With cross-party support and by drawing on Britain’s progressive history it could be unstoppable, transformational and durable.
Brian Fish

An educational musical

I totally agree with David Benedict (“The best musicals are the equal of great plays, so why the snobbery?” Comment) Last week, I was at the Old Vic to watch Sylvia, the musical about Emmeline Pankhurst’s daughter.

It was brilliant and educational. The largely young audience, including several school groups, lapped it up. The events depicted on stage would probably have been more meaningful than hours of reading history books or indeed a “straight” play. The standing ovation said it all. There is room for all genres of entertainment, David Hare.
Catherine Roome
Staplehurst, Kent

A better kettle

Rowan Moore describes John C Taylor as the “inventor of the device that turns off kettles when the water inside them boils” (Comment). All modern automatic kettles use Taylor’s switch, but he was not the first person to invent such a device. That honour goes to my father, William Russell, who introduced it into the first Russell Hobbs automatic kettle in 1955.

Taylor’s application of snap-action thermostats to automatic kettles dated from the late 1960s when he was able to improve the switch and bypass the Russell Hobbs patent.
Dr Nicholas Russell
Bath, Somerset

A teatime treat

A subscriber for more than 20 years, I have just discovered the treasure hidden in Comments & Analysis; Jonathan Bouquet’s polite, slim invitation, “May I have a word?”

Now, thanks to my Guardian app, I can read more than 50 archived articles: from sleepwalking to Transport for London, neologisms to regional vocabularies. I shall get down my OED and Fowler’s, then make a pot of peppermint tea to aid my digestion of this new found source of captious rapture.
Dr Terence Aspray
Newcastle upon Tyne