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

More from this author

Amanda Spielman

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”.

More from this theme


Ofsted: Employers lack skills to help SEND pupils on work experience

Leaders 'prioritised work experience and many were building relationships with employers', but with 'mixed results'

Freddie Whittaker

School wasn’t gaming as it can do ‘pretty much anything’, court hears

High court judge criticises Ofsted for 'entirely erroneous understanding' of 'gaming' as city technical college downgraded to ‘good’

Lucas Cumiskey

Ofsted to examine how SEND pupils are prepared for adulthood

Inspectors will visit a 'small number of areas' to look at a 'particular aspect of SEND in-depth'

Lucas Cumiskey

Ruth Perry: Reading council to survey heads’ wellbeing and challenge rogue Ofsted inspections

Actions follow coroner report into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, but sister says it shows council has ‘not...

Lucas Cumiskey

Ofsted orders review into wiped evidence claims

Schools Week revealed how technical glitches force inspectors to re-record inspection evidence, sometimes from memory

Freddie Whittaker

Ofsted’s digital inspection system glitch revealed

Electronic evidence gathering system has faced technical issues since it was launched in 2019

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *