Letters: Ofsted can be summed up in one word: inadequate

Prof Colin Richards stands by his 1990s criticism of the schools regulator, Michael Pyke says it was set up to enforce a marketised system, and other readers give their views

Twenty-six years ago, following a contentious departure from Ofsted, I wrote an article for the Guardian (The high price of inspection, 3 June 1997). Little did I realise how high that price would be in terms of teachers’ mental health, ruined careers, demoralised schools, retention crises and, in extreme cases, individuals’ suicides (Punishing Ofsted regime is driving us out of education, say school leaders, 24 March). Doubtless many schools did improve as a result of Ofsted inspections, but some did not. Some schools benefited from, and gloried in, Ofsted accolades, but many did not. In the many negative instances, both children’s and teachers’ interests were poorly served.

I finished my article with: “There has to be a better way.” I still stand by that contention, and not just through removing misleading, simplistic overall grades. A better way can be found by drawing on the previous experiences of HM Inspectorate of Schools, abolished in 1992, and on inspection systems in other jurisdictions, including Wales. That will require political goodwill, as evidenced in Labour’s education plans, and determined but humane leadership once the current cloth-eared, ideological chief inspector steps down, or is forced to do so.
Prof Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Read more in the Guardian

‘My colleague had a heart attack in front of me’: horrific toll of Ofsted inspections

In the wake of Ruth Perry’s suicide, headteachers speak out about the stress and fear that Ofsted visits can cause

Senior teacher Rob Dyson* says his last Ofsted inspection remains a “trauma”. Drinking tea in the staff room of the academy in the north of England after the inspector left, having delivered the verdict that the school had plummeted from “outstanding” to “requires improvement”, he says everyone was “ashen faced”. Noticing that the deputy head had turned a “terrible colour” and looked unwell, Dyson ushered him into the toilets.

“He started having a heart attack right there in front of me,” Dyson recalls. “It was absolutely shocking.”

Dyson got home that evening, after his colleague had gone to hospital in an ambulance, and took the dog for a walk. “I stood on the riverbank and I was just looking at that river. I had this awful sense of injustice. Our school was warm and friendly; it was absolutely bubbling,” he says. “But I snapped out of it and came home.”

Read more in the Guardian

‘Deeply sorry’ Ofsted chief rejects call for halt in inspections after head’s death

After Ruth Perry’s family demand urgent review, Amanda Spielman says she is open to debate about grading

Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, said she was “deeply sorry” over the death of Berkshire headteacher Ruth Perry, and backed “legitimate” debate over how Ofsted inspects schools in the future.

But Spielman, in her first public comments since Perry’s family attributed her death to a harsh Ofsted judgment, rejected calls by local authorities and school leaders to suspend inspections, defending them as necessary to help schools improve.

“Ruth Perry’s death was a tragedy. Our thoughts remain with Ruth’s family, friends and the school community at Caversham Primary. I am deeply sorry for their loss.

“Ahead of the coroner’s inquest, it would not be right to say too much. But I will say that the news of Ruth’s death was met with great sadness at Ofsted,” Spielman said.

Read more in the Guardian

How teachers really feel about Ofsted – and the reasons they claim schools are downgraded

Following the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry, teachers are calling for a fundamental reform of ‘punitive’ Ofsted inspections

Headteachers are in revolt. The system by which they are judged – Ofsted – is badly in need of reform, they say. Not only has it been downgrading schools for “unfair” reasons, they argue, but “punitive” inspections are placing a devastating personal strain on school leaders, costing them their health, potentially their careers and, in extreme cases, their lives. 

This week, a wave of outrage swept through the teaching profession following the death of Ruth Perry. The 53-year-old headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading took her own life in January while awaiting an Ofsted report that would downgrade her school from “outstanding” to “inadequate”. Her family said in the past few days that they were in no doubt “Ruth’s death was a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection.”

Read more in the Telegraph

Ofsted and Ruth Perry: The dam has burst on strength of feeling

A small, red-brick primary school in Reading is an unlikely starting place for a seismic shift. But the death of Caversham Primary School’s head teacher, Ruth Perry, feels like one of those rare moments when something fundamental has altered in public perception.

Ms Perry took her own life in January, weeks after an Ofsted inspection. The Ofsted report, published after her death, downgraded her school’s rating from Outstanding to Inadequate – going from the top to the bottom of the scale.

It’s as though a dam has burst, with her family blaming her death on the pressure of the inspection and head teachers and teachers coming forward to talk about their own experiences of the Ofsted process.

Read more in BBC News

Ofsted: Head teacher’s family blames death on school inspection pressure

A head teacher who took her own life ahead of a school inspection report was under “intolerable pressure”, her family has said.

Ruth Perry was waiting for an Ofsted report that would rate her primary school in Reading as inadequate.

The National Education Union, school leaders’ union NAHT and the Association of School and College Leaders have called for inspections to be halted.

The Department for Education said inspections were “hugely important”.

Ms Perry’s family said teaching had been her “passion and vocation” for 32 years and they had been left “devastated” by her death on 8 January.

In the Ofsted report, the watchdog rated Caversham Primary School as inadequate.

Read more in BBC News

Labour plan to replace Ofsted grades

Shadow education secretary to reveal that a Labour government would also introduce an annual review of school safeguarding

An incoming Labour government would consult on replacing Ofsted inspection grades with a school scorecard, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has told headteachers today.

Read more from tes, John Roberts

Ofsted chief: Complaints process not ‘satisfying’ schools

Amanda Spielman also admits that pupil voice has been given too much weight in some Ofsted school inspections, speaking at a headteachers’ conference this morning

Ofsted knows its complaints process is “not satisfying” schools and it is reviewing how it can address concerns about disputed grades, chief inspector Amanda Spielman told headteachers today.

Read more in tes

Heads call for end to ‘blunt’ Ofsted ratings in inspections overhaul

ASCL says grades such as ‘requires improvement’ should be replaced by descriptions of strengths and flaws

Sally Weale Education correspondent

Headteachers are calling for a radical overhaul of school inspection in England, including the scrapping of ratings such as “good” or “requires improvement”, which they describe as a “woefully blunt” measure of a school’s performance.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says the current system, which labels a school either “outstanding”, “good”, “requires improvement” or “inadequate”, fails to reflect the vastly different circumstances in which schools operate, while Ofsted’s inspection regime is “punitive” rather than constructive.

Read more in the Guardian here

Let teachers teach, not pore over Ofsted folders

Inspections are a charade. Heads should strive for excellence, not ratings

Lucy Kellaway, Comment

Sunday December 18 2022, 12.01am, The Sunday Times

This year Ofsted inspectors marched into 500 of the best schools in the country, each of which had previously been declared “outstanding” and given a holiday of up to 15 years from further visits. More than 80 per cent were stripped of their top grade, and a few went straight to the bottom of the class, rated “requires improvement”.

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