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Ofsted pause should kickstart root and branch reform of school inspection, unions say

OFSTED inspections will be on hold until later in the month, it was announced today, prompting unions to insist the pause should start a much needed root-and-branch reform of school inspection.

The body’s new chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver said the pause will take place to ensure inspectors receive mental health awareness training.

It comes after senior coroner Heidi Connor concluded last month that an Ofsted inspection “likely” contributed to the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Mrs Perry killed herself last January after an Ofsted report downgraded her Reading primary school from its highest to its lowest rating.

Rather than restarting inspections next week, Sir Martyn announced that they will instead begin later in January so that inspectors can receive training. 

Sir Martyn said: “Over the last year, since the tragic death of Ruth Perry, our inspections have come under great scrutiny.

“I’m determined that we learn from this to improve the way we work and respond fully to the coroner’s inquest, taking tangible actions to address the concerns raised.

“Along with immediate training on mental health awareness, one of the first things I want to do is listen: to parents, to professionals in the sectors we work with, and to people with an interest in our work.

But National Education Union general secretary Daniel Kebede called Ofsted “out of touch with the profession” and said the pause should prompt reform.

He said: “Sir Martyn Oliver’s announcement of a pause in school inspections signals that the chief inspector recognises that it is now time for Ofsted to listen to the voice of educators and their unions.

“The pause should be the start of a root-and-branch reform of school inspection.

“Our present system is inconsistent, unfair and unsuccessful in promoting school improvement.”

Mr Kebede said Ofsted is a “harmful presence” in schools and that it needs to be replaced with “a collaborative system that truly reflects a rounded picture of the work of schools.”

“Parents, students and teachers all deserve better,” he said.

General secretary of the head teachers’ union NAHT Paul Whiteman also urged change and called for Sir Martyn to agree on “immediate steps that will bring sufficient confidence to allow time to develop much needed long-term reform.”

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