Ofsted admits inspection which left Cambridge headteacher feeling 'suicidal' was flawed

  • Sean Lang, chair of governors at Queen Emma Primary School, speaks to ITV News Anglia about the changes to Ofsted inspections.

Ofsted will reinspect a school which threatened legal action over an inspection rating which bosses said left the headteacher feeling "suicidal".

Queen Emma Primary School in Cambridge was rated 'inadequate' by inspectors in October last year, but Ofsted has now said there is "some doubt" over elements of the report following a review.

It comes as Ofsted announced changes to the inspection process after the death of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry sparked schools to speak out about the impact of reports.

The measures include inspectors returning quicker to schools rated 'inadequate' due to ineffective safeguarding and changes to the complaint process so schools can raise concerns easier.

After Queen Emma Primary School disputed its last rating, a spokesperson for Ofsted said it would be doing a re-inspection.

“During a review of the school’s complaint about this inspection, it became apparent that we had not considered concerns about the personal development judgement sufficiently, and this cast some doubt over that particular judgement," a spokesperson said.

"As a result, we have removed the report from our website and we will reinspect the school.”

Sean Lang, chair of governors at Queen Emma Primary School, has been critical of the current Ofsted inspection process. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Sean Lang, chair of governors at Queen Emma Primary School, welcomed the re-inspection announcement, but said the changes from Ofsted did not go far enough.

"It’s very welcome that we’re getting changes and there’s a sign of listening on the part of Ofsted and the Department for Education," he said.

"But without a change to that limiting one-word or two-word judgement of the entire school, then really anything else you do is deprived of its force.

"The impact of ‘inadequate’ is the biggest problem schools face.

"It doesn’t matter if it’s applying to the headteacher or the school, it’s a message that’s given out to the whole community."

One of the changes Ofsted is making to its inspection process is reports will refer to "the school" when discussing areas of weakness, rather than individuals such as headteachers.

Mr Lang added that the new system needed to "hold inspectors to account" and Ofsted could be more open with the evidence it gave to schools over ratings.

A photograph of headteacher Ruth Perry attached to the railings of John Rankin Schools in Newbury, Berkshire Credit: Andrew Matthews, PA

He explained that the current inspection process could cause "very stressful and sometimes traumatic" experiences.

Mr Lang said: "There was the inevitable stress which people have when being inspected and that’s to be expected and is not necessarily a bad thing.

"But when you have inspectors who don’t behave professionally, who really take advantage of their position of power over teachers, then that can make for a very difficult, stressful and sometimes traumatic experience.

"For the headteacher whose name is on the report and ultimately carries the can for how the inspection goes, it can be devastating.

"At Queen Emma, our headteacher was also feeling to the level of suicidal before we even heard about [Ruth Perry].

"It has an enormous impact on people’s wellbeing. It’s good that people are being heard and steps are being taken, but it shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place."

He said the school was confident it had "nothing to fear if we have a fair and professional inspection".

After announcing the changes to inspections, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “When we inspect schools our priority must always be children’s education and wellbeing - but at the same time we want to make sure inspection is as positive an experience for school staff as it can be.

"Since the sad death of Ruth Perry, there has been considerable debate around Ofsted’s work and I want to reassure people that we are listening to their concerns, and thinking carefully about how we can revise aspects of our work without losing our clear focus on the needs of children and their parents.

“We have listened to many voices in this debate. I’m particularly grateful to union leaders, other sector representatives and the secretary of state [Gilllian Keegan] for the constructive discussions we’ve had over the last couple of months, which have helped us with this package of measures.”

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