Ofsted has announced it will delay inspections next week by a day to give lead inspectors urgent extra training on dealing with anxiety and when to pause their visits.
Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, has apologised to the family of headteacher Ruth Perry, after an inquest into her death recorded a verdict of suicide, contributed to by an Ofsted inspection.
From next week, a new complaints hotline will also be set up for schools to report any concerns about their inspection to a senior Ofsted official.
Training will be drawn up on “recognising and responding to visible signs of anxiety”. The watchdog will “be clear” with inspectors what to do if inspections need to be paused.
Spielman also committed to “make it clear through our inspection handbook that school leaders can be accompanied by colleagues in meetings with inspectors, and that they can share inspection outcomes with colleagues, family, medical advisers and their wider support group, before they are shared with parents”.
She added Ofsted had already “made changes to the way we work” and “we will do more”, pledging to “work hard to address” each concern raised by the coroner.
The training for lead inspectors will take place on Monday, and every school inspection due to take place next week will therefore be delayed by a day.
Amanda Spielman’s statement in full
“Ruth Perry’s death was a tragedy that deeply affected many people. My thoughts remain with her family, the wider Caversham school community, and everyone else who knew and loved her.
“On behalf of Ofsted, I would like to say sorry to them for the distress that Mrs Perry undoubtedly experienced as a result of our inspection.
“After Mrs Perry’s death we made changes to the way we work, to help reduce the pressure felt by school leaders. We will do more.
“The Coroner highlighted a number of areas of concern. We will work hard to address each of these as soon as we can, and we are starting that work straight away.
“We have started to develop training for all inspectors on recognising and responding to visible signs of anxiety.
“As a first step, we will delay our inspections next week by a day so we can bring all our lead school inspectors together ahead of further school inspections.
“As well as addressing the issue of anxiety, we will be clear with inspectors what to do if a pause is needed.
“We will also make it clear through our inspection handbook that school leaders can be accompanied by colleagues in meetings with inspectors, and that they can share inspection outcomes with colleagues, family, medical advisers and their wider support group, before they are shared with parents.
“From next week, we will provide all schools with a number to call if they have concerns about their inspection. This will put them directly in touch with someone senior from Ofsted.
“It’s right that we inspect first and foremost in the interests of children, their parents and carers. But in the light of Mrs Perry’s sad death, it’s also vital that we do all we can to minimise stress and anxiety when we inspect.
“Our inspectors are all former or current school leaders. They have a deep understanding of the work that schools do and the demands on school leaders – because they have done that work themselves.
“We will continue to listen to heads and teachers, and to refine and improve the way we work, with school staff in mind.”