Ofsted

Spielman ‘sorry’ over Caversham school ‘reviewed to death’ comment

Ofsted chief apologises for phrase used to describe inspection report at a primary where the head took her own life

Ofsted chief apologises for phrase used to describe inspection report at a primary where the head took her own life

11 Sep 2023, 17:28

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Amanda Spielman
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The Ofsted chief inspector has apologised after saying the inspection of a primary school where the head took her own life had been “reviewed to death”

Ruth Perry, the headteacher of the Berkshire school, died in January. Her family said she took her own life before the publication of an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted report.

Spielman is understood to have made the comment while emphasising the importance of inspections of public services during a London region Ofsted inspectors conference on Friday.

According to three inspectors who were present at the event, the HMCI immediately retracted the comment, stating that she “shouldn’t have” expressed it in those terms.

In a statement to Schools Week today, she said: “I used a really unfortunate turn of phrase, for which I instantly apologised and corrected myself. It was clumsy and I’m sorry for any offence caused.”

But an inspector who attended the conference said they were “appalled that [she] could speak in such a manner”.

Another inspector told Schools Week the comment was “awful”, but that Spielman had “acknowledged that immediately”.

They said it was a common phrase, “but it does feel desperately unfortunate” that it was used.

Meanwhile a third inspector said they also heard the comment, but believed Spielman had “misspoken”. They added that she was “very quick to redraw and apologise.”

The comments were made as Spielman thanked inspectors for their support, saying they had been through a difficult period.

She is believed to have noted recent incidents in the NHS – presumably the Lucy Letby killer nurse case – which she said reinforced the need for thorough inspection of key services.

Comments follow scrutiny of Ofsted response to case

Ofsted has been criticised for how it handled the Caversham school case.

Spielman admitted that she had not reached out to her family because she did not want to “intrude on their grief”.

At a pre-inquest hearing for Perry in July, a representative for Ofsted said it did not “accept the suggestion” that the inspection or how it was conducted affected Perry’s mental health, but “what was found”.

The school was rated ‘inadequate’ over its leadership and management and safeguarding. However after a reinspection in June, was rated ‘good’ in every area.

Inspectors said its work to “address previous weaknesses has been swift, thorough and effective.”

Spielman had previously said findings from the ‘inadequate’ report were “secure” and the inspection team worked with “professionalism and sensitivity”.

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