NAHT threatens judicial review over refusal to pause Ofsted inspections

Heads' union sends letter before action to watchdog calling for suspension of visits in wake of Ruth Perry's death

Heads' union sends letter before action to watchdog calling for suspension of visits in wake of Ruth Perry's death

Paul Whiteman

The NAHT school leaders’ union has threatened a judicial review of Ofsted’s refusal to pause inspections following the death of Ruth Perry.

Unions had argued for the period after news of the headteacher’s death to be used to review the impact of the system on staff wellbeing.

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’.

But Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman last week rebuffed calls for a pause.

Now the NAHT has announced it has sent a letter before action to Ofsted, which is the first step towards a judicial review of its decision not to pause.

The union said inspections should be suspended “while steps are taken to address the risk to the mental health of school staff and enable suicide risk prevention to be put in place”.

The letter cited article two of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees right to life. The NAHT pointed to Perry’s death and reports that stress caused by inspection was cited in 10 coronors’ reports on teachers’ deaths.

This “indicates the human rights of school staff are not being protected by the current Ofsted regime and that immediate action is needed to minimise harm and protect lives”.

Union wants ‘measures to minimise risk of harm’

The union said inspections must be paused “whilst a review is carried out to identify and put in place immediate measures to minimise the risk of harm to school staff”.

General secretary Paul Whiteman said Perry’s death had “shone a light on the intolerable pressure placed on school leaders and their staff during Ofsted inspections.

“It shouldn’t take a tragedy to force change, but Ofsted has shown no inclination to change on its own.

“We have requested that Ofsted works with NAHT, as recognised representatives of school leaders, to identify and agree immediate actions that can be taken. It is essential that these actions are discussed and agreed with NAHT if it is to make any meaningful difference.”

He said reform “needs to be done with us, not to us. Up until now those requests have been ignored. As such, we have no alternative but to go down this route”.

Warm words ‘simply not good enough’

“Whilst Ofsted have issued warm words, that is simply not good enough and it has shown nothing like the understanding or urgency that this situation requires.

“School leaders are determined that this should be a watershed moment and that such a tragedy can never be allowed to happen again.”

Last week, Spielman said her thoughts remained with Perry’s family, friends and colleagues. “I am deeply sorry for their loss”.

“Ahead of the coroner’s inquest, it would not be right to say too much. But I will say the news of Ruth’s death was met with great sadness at Ofsted.”

But she rejected calls to suspend inspections, saying she did not believe “stopping or preventing inspections would be in children’s best interests”.

“Our aim is to raise standards, so that all children get a great education…inspection plays an important part,” she added.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We are surprised by claims that Ofsted has ignored requests to engage in discussions with the NAHT.

“Amanda Spielman has met senior NAHT representatives twice in the last week, and she has clearly indicated Ofsted’s willingness to continue having constructive discussions about these issues.”

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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