Schools can choose to defer inspections until 2024 after Ruth Perry inquest

Ruth Perry took her own life while waiting for a negative Ofsted report. Credit: ITV Meridian

Schools can ask to defer Ofsted inspections until the New Year following the outcome of the inquest into the death of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry.

All schools in England due an Ofsted visit this week can request their inspection is deferred until 2024, and all requests will be granted, unless the watchdog has significant concerns.

It comes after Mrs Perry took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

Senior coroner Heidi Connor last week concluded that the inspection on November 15 and 16 last year “likely contributed” to Mrs Perry’s death.

Two school leaders’ unions have called for Ofsted inspections to be paused immediately to allow time for “meaningful action to be taken” following concerns raised in Mrs Perry’s inquest.

The general secretaries of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and school leaders’ union the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said simply granting inspection deferrals to schools at the end of term does not go far enough.

School staff said Ruth Perry was left tearful and incoherent after the Ofsted inspection on November 15 and 16 last year. Credit: Family handout

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “This is the final week for inspections this term. We will use our existing deferral policy to give headteachers the ability to defer their inspection to the New Year, if they don’t want it to go ahead this week.

“We will explain this when we make the notification calls today (Tuesday).

“It’s important that school inspections continue, in the interests of children and parents – but we are determined to work sensitively with headteachers and their staff.”

She added: “We recognise and understand the strength of feeling in schools, following the inquest into the tragic death of Ruth Perry.

“We are immediately introducing a number of measures that we described last week and talked through with our lead inspectors today. And we are developing new training for all inspectors, to include external experts, that will take place in early January.

“These measures address several areas of concern set out by the coroner. When we receive the coroner’s report we will urgently address all remaining issues.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “Ofsted’s response to the coroner’s findings remains wholly inadequate. Granting schools deferrals from inspections in the last week of term completely misses the point.

“We reiterate the need for Ofsted to pause inspections until meaningful measures are put in place to address the very serious concerns raised by the coroner last week.

“It would be completely wrong for Ofsted to inspect schools at the start of the New Year when we know the harm those inspections can have. Beyond that, we need a fundamental review of how inspection works in England.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted has committed to using its deferral policy to give headteachers the ability to defer inspections this week. However, we do not think this goes far enough.

“At the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Ruth Perry, the coroner set out seven areas of concern for a regulation 28 report she intends to issue to prevent future deaths. It is that serious.

“Given the gravity of the situation, the government and Ofsted should immediately pause all inspections until they have a clear plan and timetable in place to address each area of concern. Continuing to inspect, without proper pause and review, is reckless and dangerous.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

On Monday, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan signalled further changes to Ofsted inspections in a bid to prevent a repeat of the Ruth Perry “tragedy”.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Keegan highlighted reforms already introduced before saying Mrs Perry “dedicated herself” to her school and the Government wants to “build on her legacy” to help ensure “such a tragedy never happens again”.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “Ruth Perry’s death was heartbreaking and the coroner’s findings make clear that lessons need to be learned.

“As the Education Secretary said in the Commons yesterday, Ruth dedicated herself to her school and we will work with her family and Ofsted to build on her legacy ensuring the inspection system supports students and teachers.

“Following the inquest it’s right that Ofsted is giving schools the choice to defer inspections until January, as an extension of their existing deferrals policy.”

If you or someone you know is in need of support you can contact the following organisations.

Samaritans 116 123