Ofsted inspection goes ahead at Newbury school despite teacher and parents protest

School staff and parents gather outside the John Rankin School in Newbury. Credit: PA

An Ofsted inspection at a Newbury school is going ahead today after the headteacher previously said she would refuse inspectors entry following the death of fellow school leader Ruth Perry.

Ms Perry, former head of Caversham Primary took her own life in January after receiving a negative report from the education watchdog.

Flora Cooper, the executive headteacher of the John Rankin School in Newbury, tweeted on Monday, (March 20) to say she had refused entry to Ofsted inspectors.

But West Berkshire Council confirmed on Tuesday the inspection is going ahead.

A West Berkshire Council spokesperson said: “An Ofsted inspection at John Rankin School will now go ahead today following discussions between the parties involved yesterday afternoon.

“We understand that the inspection process can be a busy and stressful time for teachers, governors and school staff.

“As a council, we work closely with all of our schools to support them through the inspection process and address any individual concerns.”

A photograph of former head of Caversham Primary Schoo, Ruth Perry, attached to the fence outside John Rankin Schools in Newbury, Berkshire. Credit: PA

Teachers and school staff came out from the John Rankin School on Tuesday in support of teaching unions who have called for a pause in inspections.

Some were clutching signs which read "RIP Ruth Perry."

Katherine is a ceramics artist and former secondary school art teacher from Newbury whose two children, aged 13 and 15, used to attend John Rankin School. The 52-year-old said: “I felt honour-bound to come down.

“I passionately believe that Ofsted is divisive and not something that helps teachers.

“I’ve been through an Ofsted in the last five to 10 years and they come into your classroom and you teach in the way you are told to teach for Ofsted. That’s my problem.”

Asked whether she supports headteacher Flora Cooper’s show of protest, she said: “I’m proud that she’s doing it, it’s been a long time coming.

"As she said in the information I’ve seen, maybe it’s not the right thing to do and who knows, but it needs to be said. The scab needs to be picked and I’m pleased to be here helping in that way.”

Jelena, who has a child at John Rankin Junior School in Newbury, Berkshire, but asked not to give her surname, said she was backing headteacher Ms Cooper against “intensely cruel” Ofsted inspections.

The 53-year-old full-time mother said: “I just wanted to come out and show my support to Flora, who has bravely come forward.

“I was surprised because it’s a brave move but I thought it was a bold move and it had to be done and I knew why she was doing it.

"The system is so antiquated and needs a complete reform.

“To give a school so little notice and put that school and those teachers under pressure when they’re already under pressure is intensely cruel.

“People’s mental health is at stake, as we found out at Caversham. Who’s managing that? Nobody. Where’s the support for that? There isn’t any.”

Ellen and Liz outside the gates to John Rankin School in Newbury, Berkshire on Tuesday morning. Credit: PA

Speaking beneath a photograph of Ruth Perry on the fence outside John Rankin Infant School, ex-teacher Liz said: “As a former teacher, I would like Ofsted to go back to its roots of supporting schools and their improvements.

“I think that’s what it initially set out to do — I was ‘Ofstedded’ over 25 years ago and it was a really different process.

“We felt really looked after, we had an opportunity to prepare the parents, staff, the pupils and the families for what we were doing.

“When the inspectors came in they were genuinely interested in how we were teaching.”

Ellen, a yoga teacher who works with special needs children in Newbury said: “I spoke to our headmistress who went through the same thing that Ruth (Perry) went through.

“It has just brought it all back up for her and what she felt at the same time as well.

“You hear the little stories coming out about what Ruth did when she went above and beyond. My friend, who was having treatment at the time, she used to come and pick her daughter up to go to school.

"She just did so much more than be a headteacher.”

A man who said he was on the board of governors read a statement to reporters just after 9.30am at the school gates: “The Ofsted inspection is now going to go ahead and the school will fully engage in the process.

“What I’m going to ask you all is to please if you can move away from the school entrance as much as possible, and from the vicinity to safeguard the children and their families as we start the day because most important is the children, the families and their wellbeing. There’s no further comment at this time.”

He added inspectors had been at the school from just before 8am and the school day had not started yet.

He declined to give any further details about himself or the situation.

The MP for East Reading, Matt Rodda called for Ofsted to ask themselves some 'tough questions' following Ruth Perry's death.

The Labour MP tweeted: "The death of Ruth Perry was a devastating event for her family and our community.

"I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences to her family as they continue to grieve for a much-loved daughter, mum and sister.

"I will continue to support the family as best I can.

"Ofsted must now ask themselves some tough questions about their role and how we prevent further tragedies in the future."

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