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Ofsted should temporarily carry out ungraded inspections after Ruth Perry death, says union

Ofsted inspections should be temporarily carried out ungraded to allow the watchdog to focus on reform after the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, a school leaders' union has said.

Inspections were suspended to allow mental health training to be put in place following Mrs Perry's suicide - but will resume on Monday.

Sir Martyn Oliver, who took over as Ofsted boss at the start of the year, said that for a short period only emergency safeguarding visits would take place.

He made the announcement after a coroner concluded an inspection "likely contributed" to Mrs Perry's death in January last year.

She took her own life after Caversham Primary School in Reading was downgraded from "outstanding" to "inadequate".

The watchdog grades on a four-point scale - outstanding; good; requires improvement; inadequate.

School leaders' union NAHT is urging Ofsted to carry out ungraded inspections for an interim period to allow time for the watchdog to work on longer-term reform.

A survey by the union of 1,890 school leaders in September and October found just 3% backed Ofsted's grading system.

Almost two thirds (64%) said inspectors should report their findings in a short summary of strengths and weaknesses.

A report by the union also calls on Ofsted to immediately create a way for school leaders to stop an inspection when the inspector's conduct or practice fails to meet required standards.

Other recommendations include extending the notice schools receive ahead of an inspection to 48 hours.

'Desperate need for reform'

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: "The tragic case of Ruth Perry last year shone a bright light on the desperate need for Ofsted reform.

"It has been immensely frustrating that the concerns of the education profession and warnings raised by the NAHT for so many years have fallen on deaf ears."

He praised Sir Martyn for a "welcome change in attitude", calling it a "chance to be bold and to stop and think about how we want school inspection to operate in this country".

"Now really is the moment for change," said Mr Whiteman.

"It is time to create a fair, proportionate and humane system of inspection that works for schools, pupils and parents alike."

Sir Martyn said Ofsted would respond in full by Friday to the prevention of future deaths report issued by the coroner at Mrs Perry's inquest.

The headteacher's family blamed her death on the "deeply harmful" pressure of the inspection in November 2022.

The school was upgraded to "good" in July last year.

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An inquiry in November said Ofsted was seen as "not fit for purpose" and had "lost the trust of the teaching profession and increasingly of parents".

It found the watchdog had a "detrimental impact" perceived by some to be "toxic" and demanded "transformational change".

Former Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman last month apologised to Mrs Perry's friends and family.

"On behalf of Ofsted, I would like to say sorry to them for the distress that Mrs Perry undoubtedly experienced as a result of our inspection," she said.

"After Mrs Perry's death, we made changes to the way we work, to help reduce the pressure felt by school leaders. We will do more... and we are starting that work straight away."

:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.