Ofsted

‘Hand in your badges’: Ruth Perry’s sister urges heads not work as Ofsted inspectors

Professor Julia Waters tells NAHT conference members should 'refuse to be complicit in Ofsted's reign of terror'

Professor Julia Waters tells NAHT conference members should 'refuse to be complicit in Ofsted's reign of terror'

29 Apr 2023, 10:56

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The sister of headteacher Ruth Perry has called on leaders who also work as inspectors to “hand in your badges” and “refuse to be complicit in Ofsted’s reign of terror”.

Professor Julia Waters addressed the annual conference of school leaders’ union NAHT this morning.

It comes amid an ongoing outpouring of anger towards Ofsted over the pressure placed on school staff in the wake of Perry’s death.

Her family say she took her own life in January before the publication of an inspection report at Caversham Primary School that downgraded her school from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’. They blame pressure from the Ofsted process for her death.

Waters spoke this morning of how she “lost my little sister Ruth 15 weeks and six days ago”.

“But in fact, I lost her as I had always known her – happy, confident, caring, strong, determined – 54 days before that, when three Ofsted inspectors pronounced that Ruth’s leadership and therefore her school were ‘inadequate’.

“The injustice of this one-word judgment destroyed Ruth’s career, her world and her sense of self.”

‘You’re working in a flawed system’

Hundreds of school leaders also work as Ofsted inspectors, alongside the inspectorate’s full-time His Majesty’s Inspectors. Leaders have come under growing pressure to stop working for the watchdog.

The National Education Union passed a motion at its conference earlier this month calling on its members and those of other unions to stop participating. Some have already done so, though Ofsted said numbers were in the “single figures”.

“How many of you in this room are serving Ofsted inspectors as well as being headteachers?” Waters asked heads.

“No doubt you’re doing you’re best but you’re working within a flawed, inhumane system so follow the examples of Martin Hanbury, Andrew Morrish and others – hand in your badges.”

The NAHT confirmed on Friday that it was “putting the finishing touches” together for a legal challenge against the watchdog.

It previously announced it was taking the first steps towards a judicial review after Ofsted refused to take heed of a call to pause inspections following the death of Perry.

President-elect Simon Kidwell yesterday called on headteachers to remove Ofsted banners from railings, logos from stationary and quotes from school websites on Friday.

This would “tell our communities that Ofsted is a snapshot of school performance, judged against a framework that urgently needs a serious reform”.

Waters echoed the call this morning, asking schools to take down banners and “remove all references to Ofsted and Ofsted ratings from your school website”.

She also criticised the response of Ofsted and the government to the crisis.

‘We don’t want warm words’

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman recently said that Ofsted “often becomes a sort of lightning rod” where “tensions and frustrations can be discharged” when there is wider unhappiness in the school sector.

She also stood by the inspection at Perry’s school, and admitted she hadn’t reached out to Perry’s family because she didn’t want to “intrude on their grief”.

However, it is understood Spielman has now approached Perry’s family through their local authority with an offer to meet.

Waters said Ofsted’s “own self-assessment – supported by Gillian Keegan – remains that everything is just fine”.

“Publicly, my family has been offered condolences, from the very same people who continue to defend the indefensible system that destroyed Ruth.

“We don’t want warm words, thoughts and sympathies. My family wants – and deserves – sincere answers to our legitimate questions and concerns. We want – and deserve – urgent, meaningful actions.”

She added that the family was “not placated with the few tweaks around the edges offered so far”.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “Our inspections are first and foremost for children and their parents – looking in depth at the quality of education, behaviour, and how well and safely schools are run.

“We always want inspections to be constructive and collaborative and in the vast majority of cases school leaders agree that they are.”

Samaritans are available 365 days a year. You can reach them on free call number 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

Charity Education Support runs a confidential helpline for education staff and teachers – call 08000 562 561. 

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