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Ofsted reforms ‘nowhere near enough,’ unions charge

One-word ratings kept despite headteacher's tragic death

TEACHERS say changes to Ofsted inspections announced today in the wake of head Ruth Perry’s death do not go nearly far enough.

The 53-year-old head of a Reading primary school committed suicide earlier this year after an Ofsted inspection dropped her school’s grade from outstanding to inadequate.

After a national outcry, schools will be given more information on the timing of their inspections and a consultation on reforms to the complaints system will be launched.

But Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman and the Department for Education have refused to scrap the practice of labelling schools in England with a single-word overall grade, a move called called for by teaching unions and Ms Perry’s family.

Joint general secretary of the National Education Union Dr Mary Bousted said: “Unfortunately, Ofsted fails to comprehend the scale of change needed to restore the confidence of the profession in its judgements on school quality.

“This package of measures does not go nearly far enough to address the deep concerns of teachers and leaders about the surveillance model of school inspection in England. 

“These changes don’t address the high-stakes pressures that are tied up with a one-grade summative judgement and that drive unsustainable pressure and a data-heavy surveillance culture.”

NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “This tragedy has prompted calls for a much wider debate about the future of inspection that goes far beyond the matters addressed in the proposals announced today.

“The high-stakes nature of inspection remains the elephant in the room and with it the crude grading system, which are yet to be addressed.

“We will need to see more than piecemeal changes to restore confidence and ensure that schools are held accountable for the right things in the right ways.”

Ms Perry’s sister Professor Julia Waters also criticised Ofsted’s changes, telling BBC Breakfast that the refusal to remove the single-word judgement is a mistake.

“It’s something that I, and I know the majority of the teaching profession, will continue to push to get removed,” she said.

Prof Waters said her sister had invited Ofsted to visit her school in 2019. Ms Spielman’s team had attended, and the feedback Ms Perry received was “glowing.”

“One of the reasons that Ruth found that ‘inadequate’ judgement so devastating was precisely because she had invited Ofsted in three years before and wanted to make sure she had everything in place,” she said.

“She was given assurances that the school was functioning well and that their ‘outstanding’ judgment was valid.”

Ms Spielman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s not for me to decide that there will or won’t be judgements in this system.

“We could write a sentence that captured all the things that typically are reflected in an ‘inadequate’ judgement and use that, but the feedback when we talk to people is they know that if the consequences are the same, if the significance of it is the same, it would come to mean exactly the same very quickly.

“So it wouldn’t really solve the underlying discomfort.”

Ms Spielman added that it was down to government to make any changes to the way ratings work.

As part of the changes announced, inspection reports will also refer to the school, rather than individuals, when discussing areas of weakness.

Schools graded inadequate overall only due to ineffective safeguarding but where all other judgements are good or better will also be revisited by inspectors within three months of a report being published.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “I have committed to continuing our work on improving the way we inspect our schools with Ofsted and the family of Ruth Perry following her tragic death.”

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