Keegan: Ofsted ‘reviewing’ approach to safeguarding

'Tragedy' of Ruth Perry's death raises 'understandable' questions about inspection practice, says education secretary

'Tragedy' of Ruth Perry's death raises 'understandable' questions about inspection practice, says education secretary

Ofsted is “reviewing” its approach to inspecting safeguarding in schools following an outcry over the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, Gillian Keegan has said.

The education secretary told MPs this afternoon that Perry’s death was a “terrible tragedy”, and agreed to meet her family and headteachers in her local area.

It comes after widespread discontent with Ofsted inspections exploded into an outpouring of anger following reports 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.

An inquest to establish facts around Perry’s death has not yet been heard. A pre-inquest review is scheduled for July 11.

Challenged about Perry’s death today by shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson, Keegan said it was a “terrible tragedy and my deepest sympathies are with her family, her friends and the whole school community”.

She said a “shocking event like this will inevitably raise questions about inspection practice, which is understandable”, but said safeguarding of pupils was also “vitally important”.

“I know that [chief inspector Amanda Spielman] has listened to concerns from school leaders about the way safeguarding is inspected, and is reviewing the approach as part of ongoing evaluation and development, and I do welcome this.”

Pressed for further details of any review, Ofsted refused to comment, instead pointing Schools Week to a previous statement in which the watchdog said it “regularly engages in discussions with the teaching unions”.

“Amanda Spielman has met senior headteacher representatives several times in recent weeks, and she has clearly indicated Ofsted’s willingness to continue having constructive discussions about these issues.”

Keegan this morning defended Ofsted’s use of single-word judgments, something that has come under significant fire in recent weeks.

At its conference earlier this month, the National Education Union voted to call on school leaders not to work as inspectors pending a health and safety assessment.

“I think one-word assessments are there to make sure it’s easy for parents to navigate them,” she told the Today Programme, adding they were “clear” and “simple to understand”.

“There’s quite a broad framework that is assessed as part of Ofsted and that’s what they do and they’ve actually looked to broaden that framework even more. And of course if there are areas that need to be developed further then that is where the right conversation to have is.

“But undermining Ofsted, undermining the headteachers and teachers who conduct Ofsted assessment is not the right approach.”

In response to a petition calling for an urgent review into Ofsted inspections, signed by more than 50,000 people, the government said it “always keeps the inspection system under review and will continue to do so, engaging with Ofsted and with the sector”.

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