Following the tragic suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry, Ofsted has announced changes to school inspections in England, including revisiting schools graded inadequate over child welfare within three months. Additionally, the complaints system will undergo a significant overhaul. Ruth Perry’s sister, Prof Julia Waters, stated that while the changes were a start, more substantial reforms were necessary. The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, described the changes as “a really important step” and acknowledged the need for Ofsted to continue evolving to improve school standards.
Under the new changes, inspectors will revisit schools graded as inadequate due to child safety concerns within three months. If the school has addressed these concerns, it can be regraded. From September, schools will also receive more detailed information about the measures required to ensure child safety, including proper record-keeping and staff training.
Ofsted is currently seeking feedback on a revised complaints system, which would allow for an independent adjudicator’s involvement at an earlier stage if schools are dissatisfied. The organisation stated that it was addressing these concerns “without losing our clear focus on the needs of children and their parents”.
Ruth Perry took her own life while awaiting the publication of an Ofsted report that rated her Caversham Primary School in Reading as inadequate. Her family believes that the inspection process caused her significant distress. Prof Waters said that the changes were a “step in the right direction” but emphasised that her most important concerns had not yet been addressed, such as the one-word judgement system.
Numerous schools and parents across the country have voiced their concerns about Ofsted inspections. A primary school in Cambridge successfully had its judgement withdrawn after a legal challenge, while thousands of parents in Sheffield signed a petition after King Edward VII secondary school was deemed inadequate over child safety issues.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary at the school leaders’ union NAHT, said that while Ofsted’s changes were “sensible and somewhat helpful,” they did not go far enough in addressing the profession’s concerns. The NAHT will continue to campaign for more fundamental reform of the inspection process, including changes to the “simplistic single-word judgements” used by Ofsted.