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Ofsted under fire

The Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers have called for Ofsted inspections to be paused immediately. This follows a coroner’s finding that an Ofsted inspection had contributed to the death of head teacher Ruth Perry.

The school leaders’ unions said the pause would allow time for meaningful action to be taken. They call on Ofsted to make a plan to mitigate the risk of future deaths and set out a timetable for addressing each area of concern raised by the coroner, in order for schools and colleges to have “even a modicum of confidence” in Ofsted.

Two enquiries have recently reported after considering the reform of the school inspection system in England. Beyond Ofsted, the inquiry headed by former Schools Minister Lord Knight, reported on 20 November. It called for “transformational” change in school inspection, since Ofsted was now seen as “toxic” and “not fit for purpose”.

Carried out by academics from University College London, it considered several options for reform of the inspection system. It recommended that schools should make their own “self-evaluations” by working with an external “improvement partner” – an experienced school leader from the school’s trust or local authority.

That was also one of the key recommendations of another report on school improvement released in November by the Institute for Public Policy Research. It also called for replacing single-word judgements with narrative-style evaluations.