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Headteacher refuses Ofsted entry to school as Ruth Perry’s death sparks calls for boycott

Ruth Perry took her own life in January while awaiting a damning Ofsted report  (Caversham Primary School)
Ruth Perry took her own life in January while awaiting a damning Ofsted report (Caversham Primary School)

A headteacher is planning to refuse Ofsted inspectors entry to her school after the death of fellow school leader Ruth Perry.

Ms Perry, who was head at Caversham Primary School in Reading, took her own life in January while waiting for an Ofsted report which gave her school the lowest possible rating, her family said.

Unions representing school leaders and teachers have called on the education watchdog to pause all inspections this week, following Ms Perry’s death, while her sister has called on schools to “refuse Ofsted inspectors entry” until a review has been carried out.

Flora Cooper, executive headteacher of the John Rankin Schools in nearby Newbury, Berkshire, tweeted on Monday: “I’ve just had the call. I’ve refused entry.

“Doing this for everyone for our school staff everywhere!”

She called on people to support her at the school on Tuesday morning, when inspectors are due to arrive.

She said on Twitter: “We have to do this! I’m taking the stand!”

Ofsted is understood to be in contact with the school, and trying to resolve the situation.

It comes after Ms Perry’s sister, Julia Waters, said the head teacher had experienced the “worst day of her life” when inspectors reviewed the school in November.

Ms Waters told BBC South that the inspection destroyed 32 years of her vocation and “preyed on her mind until she couldn’t take it any more”.

The inspection report found the school to be good in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be inadequate.

A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has more than 39,000 signatures.

On Facebook, Ms Waters called on schools to boycott Ofsted.

“In Ruth’s memory and to protect others, I call on headteachers (with the support of teaching unions) to boycott Ofsted until a thorough, independent review has been conducted and changes implemented; refuse Ofsted inspectors entry to their school (or, at least, refuse to comply with inspectors’ requests),” she wrote.

Three unions representing teachers and school leaders have urged Ofsted to pause inspections this week in light of the news about Ms Perry.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Ruth Perry’s death is an unspeakable tragedy and it is clear that school leaders across the nation have been deeply affected by the news.

“Having spoken with Ruth’s family, we know they are determined that something like this should never happen again. It is important that everyone listens to what they have to say.”

He added: “Whilst it should never take a tragedy like this to prompt action, this has to be a watershed moment.

“The anger and hurt being expressed currently by school staff is palpable. It is essential that all policy makers, including Ofsted, listen and respond.

“Given the strength of feeling and the need for a period of calm reflection, Ofsted should pause inspections this week.”

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), added: “Given recent events and widespread concerns about leaders’ wellbeing, it’s the height of insensitivity for Ofsted to be going into schools or colleges this week.

“Ofsted should pause all its inspections and reflect upon the unmanageable and counter-productive stress they cause for school leaders, and the impact on leaders.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We’ve seen that a headteacher has tweeted their intention to refuse entry to an Ofsted inspection team, and this shows very clearly the strength of feeling following the tragic death of Ms Perry.

“Many school and college leaders and their staff find inspections and Ofsted judgments very traumatic, and this is often damaging to their wellbeing.

“This case has brought matters to a head and something has to change. We will be discussing this with Ofsted as a matter of urgency.”

ASCL is also calling on the watchdog to pause inspections this week.

Mr Barton added: “Ofsted should undertake an immediate review of the impact of inspections on the wellbeing of school and college leaders and staff, and a pause in the inspection cycle would allow for a period in which this could happen.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is a legal requirement for schools and nurseries to be inspected by Ofsted and they have a legal duty to carry out those inspections.

“Inspections are hugely important as they hold schools to account for their educational standards and parents greatly rely on the ratings to give them confidence in choosing the right school for their child.

“We offer our deep condolences to the family and friends of Ruth Perry following her tragic death and are continuing to provide support to Caversham Primary School at this difficult time.”

Matthew Purves, Ofsted’s regional director for the South East, said: “We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death.

“Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.”

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