Suffolk headteacher Maria Kemble, based in Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury, criticises Ofsted inspection system following Ruth Perry inquest
A Suffolk head has spoken out about Ofsted following the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry.
The inquest ruled that an Ofsted inspection ‘contributed’ to the death of Mrs Perry, 53, who took her own life in January while waiting for an Ofsted report to be published.
Senior coroner Heidi Connor said the inspection ‘lacked fairness, respect and sensitivity’ and was at times ‘rude and intimidating’.
Mrs Perry had been aware her school was to be downgraded to ‘inadequate’ from ‘outstanding’ following the inspection. It has since been regraded as ‘good’.
Speaking to SuffolkNews, Maria Kemble, executive head of St Edmund's RC Primary School in Bury St Edmunds and St Joseph's RC Primary in Sudbury, said: “I think any system that makes staff cry, fearful and anxious is not fit for purpose.
“If the purpose of Ofsted is to improve education then it needs to work with the profession to support staff to improve and not destroy their confidence.
“There is a crisis in recruitment and retention of staff in schools and Ofsted is one of the pressures that is causing this.”
She also said the single-word inspection judgements were ‘not helpful’ as they do not reflect the complexity of schools.
“A label such as inadequate is not going to help a school improve - rather it will demotivate staff and make the whole community feel negatively,” she added.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, apologised ‘for the distress that Mrs Perry undoubtedly experienced as a result of our inspection’.
She said after Mrs Perry’s death Ofsted had made changes to the way it works, to help reduce the pressure felt by school leaders.
“We will do more,” she said. “The coroner highlighted a number of areas of concern. We will work hard to address each of these as soon as we can, and we are starting that work straight away.”
She said they had started to develop training for all inspectors on recognising and responding to visible signs of anxiety and, as a first step, Ofsted will delay its inspections next week by a day to bring all lead school inspectors together ahead of further school inspections.
She added: “It’s right that we inspect first and foremost in the interests of children, their parents and carers. But in the light of Mrs Perry’s sad death, it’s also vital that we do all we can to minimise stress and anxiety when we inspect.”