NAHT mulls joining campaigners for Ofsted legal action

Whiteman favours 'single collaborative approach' over a 'series of separate legal actions'

Whiteman favours 'single collaborative approach' over a 'series of separate legal actions'

Paul Whiteman

A headteachers’ union is “actively exploring” working with other groups intending to take legal action against Ofsted in the wake of Ruth Perry’s death.

The NAHT announced in March that it had kick-started the process of a judicial review of Ofsted’s refusal to pause inspections.

Perry’s family said she had taken her own life in January before the publication of an inspection report rating Caversham primary school in Berkshire ‘inadequate’.

The NAHT was not the only group to threaten legal action, however.

Fair Judgement – a group of headteachers fronted by former Ofsted inspector John Bald – has so far raised more than £46,000 for its own proposed legal challenge.

In an update to headteachers today, general secretary Paul Whiteman said his union had “had some dialogue with Ofsted about some of the immediate changes we believe are necessary”.

But “while those conversations have been reasonably constructive at times, our view remains that Ofsted is not showing sufficient urgency in order to alleviate our many concerns”.

“Because of that, we are continuing to explore legal action against the inspectorate.

“As part of that, we are actively exploring how we can work in conjunction with other groups that have also signalled their intent to pursue legal action.”

‘Single collaborative approach’

Whiteman said he believed a “single collaborative approach is likely to be more effective than a series of separate legal actions by different parties”.

“As you will appreciate, this is a legal matter so we are restricted in terms of what we can say publicly, but I can reassure you that our work in this area is continuing.”

At its conference in April, the NAHT passed a motion calling on members who currently inspect for Ofsted to consider pausing their involvement until the current dispute is resolved.

Whiteman said “while such decisions are ultimately for individual members to make, and your union cannot tell you to stop inspecting, we know that many of you will be reflecting on what the motion means for you and your own circumstances”.

The NAHT has also added issues around the impact of inspection on leaders to its formal dispute with the government, over which is it currently re-balloting members for strike action.

Ofsted declined to comment.

Fair Judgment is being advised by lawyers at Irwin Mitchell on whether there are grounds to bring action against what it deems as a “manifestly unfair” school inspection framework.

It will also seek to challenge the apparent lack of time inspectors have to substantiate their evidence. 

It comes as Queen Emma Primary School in Cambridge also lodged a request for a judicial review over an ‘inadequate’ grade.

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