Ofsted reforms insufficient, says sister of teacher who died post-downgrade

The sister of a headteacher who took her own life after her school received a downgrade from Ofsted has stated that the recently announced inspection system reforms are insufficient. Ruth Perry, former headteacher of Caversham Primary School in Reading, passed away in January. The school was rated “good” in every category except leadership and management, where it was deemed “inadequate.” Since Perry’s death, there have been increasing calls for Ofsted to implement reforms, including the abolition of one-word assessments.

Despite the pressure, Ofsted’s changes do not include the removal of single-word ratings. Chief inspector Amanda Spielman emphasized that Ofsted is paying attention to concerns raised following Perry’s death and is considering revisions to its work while maintaining a focus on children and parents’ needs. However, Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Waters, believes that the changes are only “a start” and do not fully address the issues caused by the current system.

Waters expressed disappointment at the retention of “harmful and misleading single-word judgements,” arguing that they oversimplify inspection results and obscure important details. She did, however, welcome the removal of confidentiality requirements for inspectorates’ findings before results publication, as well as the additional funding for mental health support.

Unions and the Labour party have also criticized the changes, asserting that Ofsted must go further. The reforms involve launching a formal consultation on changes to the complaints system, aimed at resolving complaints more quickly, and providing schools with more information about the timing of inspections. Additionally, inspection reports will refer to the school rather than individuals when discussing weaknesses, starting in September.

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For schools graded “inadequate” overall solely due to ineffective safeguarding, inspectors will return within three months of the inspection report’s publication—faster than in the past. If the school has resolved the safeguarding concerns, its overall grade is likely to improve, according to Ofsted. Schools will also receive more clarity about the threshold for effective versus ineffective safeguarding from September onwards.

A programme providing well-being support for teachers will be expanded by March 2024. However, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), argued that the government and Ofsted have taken too long to announce these “relatively modest” measures. The NAHT continues to call for more fundamental reform of the inspection process, stating that the system will remain flawed and place unnecessary pressure on school leaders as long as single-word judgements persist.

In the UK, anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

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Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.

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