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World News

Christian education expert reveals pressures on faith schools amid Ofsted criticisms

by Sophie Drew

A Christian education expert and former headteacher has shed light on the immense pressures faced by those working in the education sector, amid calls to change Ofsted inspections.

The comments follow an attempted boycott by a school in Newbury of an inspection, intended as an act of solidarity with a headteacher who committed suicide.

The sister of Ruth Perry, who was head of a school in Caversham, Berkshire, says a disappointing Ofsted inspection was to blame for the teacher taking her life.

Ofsted was about to release a report branding her school “inadequate”.

Schools' expert Steve Beegoo – head of education at Christian Concern and previously an inspector himself - emphasised the importance of supporting educators and praying for their well-being.

"There are huge, huge pressures on headteachers", he told Premier, "and so I have huge sympathy for all that's happened in these circumstances”.

Beegoo acknowledged that headteachers often bear the responsibility of solving various societal issues within schools while managing an array of challenges like safeguarding, behaviour management, and academic performance.

The stress can be overwhelming; Beegoo disclosed that he himself had experienced a "mental breakdown" during his time as a headteacher.

“Thanks be to God that there were godly people around me who were able to support and pray with me and lead me to a place of hope,” he said.

The relationship between faith schools and Ofsted can be particularly difficult due to numerous regulations that have evolved over the past 20 years.

Beegoo pointed out that policy changes regarding faith, identity, and sexuality have had a significant impact on faith schools, particularly those keen to teach in line with traditional Christian beliefs, during this period.

He believes Ofsted inspectors sometimes approach these issues with their own ideological bias, adding to the challenge for faith schools.

To address these concerns, Beegoo called for prayer and support for educators in our communities.

He quoted Jesus' words from Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest... For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

He encouraged praying for teachers and headteachers to find the balance between what they should carry alongside Jesus and what burdens they should let go.

In response to the boycott today, and backlash regarding the death of Ruth Perry, 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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