Ex-Ofsted chief defends inspections after headteacher’s death

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 former head of Ofsted has defended the institution, saying parents want to be given a “summary judgement” of whether a school is good or not.

It comes amid growing calls for Ofsted to reform the way it rates schools in the wake of the death of a headteacher whose school was being branded “inadequate”.

Former Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw on Tuesday said parents “want to know whether they are sending their child to a good school. If it isn’t good they want to know what action is going to be taken.”

Protests are growing following the death of Reading headteacher Ruth Kelly, whose family said she took her own life “as a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection at her school.”

Fellow headteacher Flora Cooper, of John Rankin primary school in Newbury, vowed to refuse entry to Ofsted inspectors who were due to visit her school on Tuesday.

The school was forced to close in the morning after she urged supporters to join her, but later withdrew the request “for the protection of our children and staff.”

Ofsted said the inspection would go ahead.

Teaching unions have called for all Ofsted inspections to be paused and more than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection at Ms Kelly’s school, Caversham Primary.

Asked if Ofsted’s one-word ratings could be replaced with a report-card style judgement, Sir Michael told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “You could do it but I come back to the central point - parents want to know whether this is a good school or not.

“They want a summary judgement. If they are going to read a list of strengths and weaknesses I am not sure they would get a sense of whether inspectors think a school is good enough. That’s what they want.”

He insisted that Ofsted acts as a “spur for improvement” for schools and said the schools watchdog has helped to raise standards over the last 30 years.

He added: “The great majority of schools welcome Ofsted. Over 80 per cent of schools are judged to be good by Ofsted and headteachers in my experience want the hard work they put in and the hard work of their teachers to be validated by an independent inspectorate.”