Ofsted

Leaders at Ofsted’s first rapid revisit school resign over ‘traumatic’ inspections

Heads say new policy to speed up reinspections over safeguarding failures still had 'profound impact'

Heads say new policy to speed up reinspections over safeguarding failures still had 'profound impact'

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The headteacher and deputy at the first school revisited under the Ofsted rapid re-inspection system – introduced after Ruth Perry’s death – have resigned, saying the process was still too “traumatic”.

The watchdog announced in June that all schools graded ‘inadequate’ due to ineffective safeguarding, but where all other judgments were ‘good’ or better, would be revisited within three months of their report’s publication.

The policy was introduced after the death of Perry, who had been headteacher at Caversham Primary in Berkshire. Ofsted said it would “allow the school to put matters right and have its grade swiftly changed”. 

Previously, another graded inspection for such schools could take up to two-and-a-half years.

Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, in Leeds, was rated ‘good’ in a report published earlier this month after a rapid reinspection in November.

Ofsted safeguarding checks ‘not fit for purpose’

The school had previously been rated ‘inadequate’. While the report, published in September, highlighted “weaknesses in safeguarding practice”, it was ‘good’ in all other areas.

Kate Bates

But headteacher Joseph Masley and his deputy Kate Bates said the “unfair” inspection result last summer had a “profound” impact on them. 

They have worked at the school for 12 and 10 years respectively, but handed in their notices after the last inspection result was published, despite the better rating. 

Masley said the ‘inadequate’ was down to “the way that we recorded some actions on our safeguarding system” which was “rectified” the day after it was flagged as a problem.

“No child was ever at any risk,” he said, adding the current system “isn’t fit for purpose”. 

“The impact on us from that June inspection was profound and you can actually reflect on the situation Ruth Perry found herself in and understand it,” he said. 

Leaders told: ‘This has to happen’

“The fact we were able to support one another was crucial because it was a very tough time, unnecessary and traumatic.”

He claimed the inspector told the team in June: “You’re really good in all other areas, you’re an outstanding leadership team, but this has to happen.” 

Ofsted “didn’t get it back to us before our summer holiday, so Kate and I went off on our summer holiday wondering what on earth this report is going to say”. 

“Then they came back in November and suddenly everything was great, and they kept asking us about our wellbeing.”

Masley added they got “two days’ warning” before the re-inspection, an “extra day” than normal, “which was a positive”.

Bates welcomed the reinspection within 12 weeks as “much better than two years”. Massey also got “regular phone calls from the lead inspector, which is welcome” after the revisit.

Ofsted revisit ‘intense’

But Bates said the revisit was “exceptionally intense” as it “had to ensure that the judgments made that were ‘good’ in June were still sound”. 

Joseph Masley

While it started as a monitoring inspection looking at safeguarding, it was upgraded to a full, section five inspection, “where we had to revisit all the other areas that were judged ‘good’ only 10 weeks ago … we found it nonsensical,” Masley said. Bates questioned why this was needed.

Masley added the ‘inadequate’ grade is also “not going away. That’s always the case and because of that, and for a number of other reasons, both my deputy and I have handed our notice in so we will be leaving in the summer.”

Other reasons include “disillusionment with the system: we can’t trust what happened to us. If we were an ‘inadequate’ school then fair enough, but we’re not.”

Bates added that “going forward, for us, one-word judgements cannot be used to sum up such a complex organisation as a school”.

Being a head ‘traumatic and wearing’

“And that word ‘inadequate’ is wholly inappropriate and dreadful to use. The impact of that word on me and Joe has been really big,” she added.

The inquest into Perry’s death heard she thought the ‘inadequate’ grade her school received over safeguarding issues “was the end of her career”. 

Caversham was reinspected in June last year and deemed ‘good’ after “weaknesses in safeguarding arrangements” had been addressed. 

Bates said her disillusionment included “the level of pressure” from both Ofsted and the government.

“It just reinforced my distrust in the system. It made me feel this job, in the current form and current system, is not worth it,” Masley said.

The pair do not have other jobs lined up. Bates said “at the minute I haven’t got the resilience to be able to do the job”.

Masley added: “I’m not ruling out being a head in another school at another time, but it is traumatic and it is wearing – so it will be a break. We have taken a big step. It’s a ballsy decision.” 

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6 Comments

  1. Philip McElwee

    Ofsted in my own experience has many members who would be unemployable in schools. Over my years as a headteacher, which included several inspections, i encounted inarticulate bullies who clearly relished their role and the power it afforded them. The curriculum is doing a grave disservice to many of our children, it is turgid and heavily reliant upon results, which i know are often inflated. The whole system needs a complete overhaul

    • Carl Whyte

      Notice these people are only picking on Christian schools ,where the racism card can’t be played ,somebody else is paying these individuals to stop the good progress and good education these children are receiving,Teachers Stand Your Ground,The Kids NEED YOU..

  2. What a sad state of affairs.
    You have both obviously worked really hard to jump through the Ofsted hoops but at a cost to your own resilience and wellbeing.
    Education should not be like this. We do not want it for our students, why would we want it to affect the staff in this way.
    I wish you both well. Look after yourselves and take good care.

  3. Ann Harwood

    Hi , I’m a retired teacher.
    Reading this article I felt the need to say how much I agree with all you said. I can’t believe any system like Ofsted ( or any government they serve) allow this to happen.
    You know your school and the love, care and professionalism you pour into to your work every day are not valued or understood with that one ‘Inadequate ‘ judgment.
    As a teacher/ leader of a school , you know your children and you support them and their families daily. You would not allow them to be at risk.
    None of this is recognised in the Ofsted system that says
    INADEQUATE for a recording error or small oversight that may happen in the daily interactions of a lot of wonderful children.
    In the busy family atmosphere of a school anything that needs amending is recognised and amended whether it is pointed out by colleagues, school leaders, children themselves and parents/ carers . Thats our job!! It’s a moving circus.
    If the school is led well and is run by people who are devoted to their work, acting with care, professionalism and good training … that’s what is important and is what parents/ carers/ children need.
    The impact that a school has on the community you serves is great.
    It comes with great responsibility. I fully understand that the people and children you serve need to understand how their schools are run and that they are offering the best practise in the circumstances.
    This is why parents/carers have to rely on the authoritative decision from Ofsted / the government.
    I only hope more parents/ carers have been educated in the failings of the OFSTEAD system at present so that they can look past the INADEQUATE judgement if they discover it’s because of a small error that is immediately put right in the case ‘good well run schools.’
    But it shouldn’t have to be that way round, Ofsted / government needs to address this now!
    The inspection system surely has to be as has to be equally caring and professional as the place they’re inspecting. Why is their role not more helping schools that are struggling to improve ? The inspection must be done with empathy for the job the staff are doing and that comes from knowing the school and its community.
    If a school is deemed not safe for the children of course immediate action is necessary. But to ruin good schools and loose fantastic leaders and staff of these schools has to be wrong.
    Our children need and deserve the best and ruining good schools with unfair judgements is not the way to go.
    Although I’m not teaching any more, I loved every moment of my long career making a difference for the children and their families and I’m so sad to see fantastic teachers having to give up because of present inspection / government pressure.

  4. Stephanie Edwards

    Ofsted has not been fit for purpose for a decade or two.
    They remind me of the “Jobs worth” parking enforcers, full of their own self importance.
    The whole structure needs changing My mum was an examiner 25 years ago and she was respected and liked. Schools looked forward to seeing her because she was a motivator. Enthusiastic, patient, reflective and encouraged schools to maximize their potential The school in the sky benefits from her now but her legacy lives on. Ousted has to recruit more people like my mum. Stephanie

  5. Chris Dyer

    As a retired teacher I can only agree with everything said by the head, deputy and other contributers here. I taught for 20 years in a very large comprehensive/ technology college and latterly academy – all the same school. I was a pastoral leader with responsibility for an eleven form entry at Y7 and 15 staff, in an area of high deprivation. One staff member – highly qualified – had massive difficulties in the classroom and left to become an OFSTED inspector! On one occasion during an inspection I was due to be observed teaching an outdoor PE lesson – clear blue skies, frosty, but a lovely day. The inspector refused to observe the lesson as it was and I quote “Too cold to go outside.”! One inspector informed one of the staff that, although the lesson had been good, they had to mark them down “because of the detritus on the classroom floor.”, left by the previous class taught by a different member of staff. Unfortunately, in my opinion, education is driven by results and OFSTED, and has become something to be endured and not enjoyed. Excellent, caring schools are often rated inadequate because results are not within the acceptable range, anomalies in paperwork or an oversight in record keeping that could be addressed sometimes on the day, let alone inside the following week. An inspection is allegedly objective but schools within the same trust, and with exactly the same documentation and outcomes on leadership have had completely different outcomes in grading!
    OFSTED is not fit for purpose, it relies on wildly differing outcomes according to the views/ interpretation of criteria by different teams of inspectors. It is a fault finding exercise, not a supportive one as it should be.That said some inspectors are sympathetic to the difficulties schools face and do try to apply criteria fairly and evenly but the system restricts them. A massive overhaul of the inspection system is needed and individuals with proven practical experience in leadership, teaching “at the chalk face”, curriculum planning and management need to be at the forefront of inspections and change.