Keegan: We must build on Ruth Perry’s legacy to prevent repeat tragedy
Concerns over Ofsted inspections were raised with education ministers in the Commons.
The Education Secretary has signalled further changes to Ofsted inspections in a bid to prevent a repeat of the Ruth Perry “tragedy”.
Gillian Keegan highlighted reforms already introduced before saying Mrs Perry “dedicated herself” to her school and the Government wants to “build on her legacy” to help ensure “such a tragedy never happens again”.
Mrs Perry killed herself after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.
Staff at the school said the headteacher was left tearful and incoherent after the inspection on November 15 and 16 last year, with senior coroner Heidi Connor last week concluding it “likely contributed” to Mrs Perry’s death.
Speaking at education questions, Ms Keegan told the Commons: “Ruth Perry’s death was a tragedy that left a hole in the hearts of her family, her community and her school.
“Throughout this year I’ve been honoured to work closely with Ruth’s sister, Julia, and her friends to introduce important changes to inspection practice alongside Ofsted.
“They ensure headteachers can share their inspection outcome, including with colleagues, friends and family, and our new changes mean that if a school is graded ‘inadequate’ due to ineffective safeguarding but all other judgments are ‘good’, they will be reinspected within three months – which has now happened at Caversham Primary School, which was regraded as ‘good’ this summer.
“We also doubled the wellbeing support for our school leaders.
“In life Ruth dedicated herself to her school and we will build on her legacy to help ensure such a tragedy never happens again.”
Labour MP Matt Rodda (Reading East) said: “Following the inquest last week, could I ask the Secretary of State whether she will now consider the removal of the single-word judgment from Ofsted inspection reports?”
Ms Keegan said: “I will be working very closely with the new HMCI (His Majesty’s Chief Inspector) when he starts three weeks today to see what more we can do.
“But we must remember that Ofsted do play an important role to keep children safe and to keep standards high.”
Conservative MP Flick Drummond earlier said the “last-minute nature” of Ofsted inspections causes “huge anxiety” to small rural schools in her Meon Valley constituency.
She said: “It means that teachers, and in particular headteachers, are putting activities off like residential school trips, educational trips and professional development courses in case they get that call from Ofsted.”
She asked the Government to consider changing the notice period for inspections to ensure teachers can plan their workloads better.
Schools minister Damian Hinds, in his reply, said: “I recognise what she says about small rural schools. Inspections have a really important role to play but they do also have the flexibility in the framework to take account of the position of smaller schools.”
SNP education spokeswoman Carol Monaghan said the workload and stress levels for teachers “rise exponentially during an inspection” as she offered her condolences to Mrs Perry’s friends and family.
She said: “In light of the coroner’s verdict that the rude and intimidatory nature of the Ofsted inspection contributed to Ruth Perry’s tragic suicide, how is the minister ensuring the welfare of school leaders is prioritised during inspections?”
Mr Hinds extended his condolences to the friends and family of Mrs Perry, adding: “The inspection framework and process must both be fully informative to parents but also supportive to teachers and schools.”
For Labour, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “We must all now listen and learn to deliver an inspection system that works in the best interest of children, school staff and communities.”
Elsewhere, a new report found parents and teachers want Ofsted inspections and the school accountability system to be more transparent, well-rounded and less high-stakes.
Research found that parents and carers are in favour of a report card-style Ofsted accountability model, with only 6% saying they do not like the idea of overhauling the “one-word” judgment system, according to Public First – the report’s authors.
The report – commissioned by the Laidlaw Foundation, which invests in education of the underprivileged and underrepresented – into public support for education reform suggests that 85% of parents agree on balance that Ofsted should continue to inspect schools and 60% think that inspections should change.
A total of 42% of parents said Ofsted should be more transparent on how it reaches judgments, 37% of parents want longer inspections, 36% want greater frequency of inspections and 34% want an end to single-word judgments.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said Ofsted has made changes to reduce pressure felt by school leaders and “will do more” to address concerns raised by the coroner after the inquest into Mrs Perry’s death.
Mrs Spielman also apologised on behalf of the schools regulator to the family and friends of Mrs Perry.
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