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UK News

Reform of Ofsted school inspections needs consideration, say Christian teachers

by Premier Journalist

“One word indictments” of a school’s performance can be “very punitive”, the Association of Christian Teachers (ACT) has said after calls for Ofsted inspections to be paused.

Executive Officer of ACT, Lizzie Harewood, criticised what she called “the immense amount of stress and pressure put on teachers and leaders” by the current methods of assessing a school’s performance.

“I certainly think that ACT would welcome some kind of consideration of reform to the inspection system”, she told Premier Christian News.

Her comments follow calls on Ofsted by three unions representing teachers and heads to pause inspections this week, following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, while a review is carried out into the system.

Ms Perry was headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, when she killed herself in January while waiting for an Ofsted report which downgraded her school to the lowest possible rating, her family said.

“There's a growing call from across the education sector that perhaps there is reform that is needed”, ACT’s Lizzie Harewood continued, “and that's from Christians and those teachers that aren't Christians.”

As a former secondary school teacher who said she knew personally the stress of inspection, Ms Harewood said the concerns of professionals she spoke to about Ofsted weren’t because they were “afraid of being accountable.”

“You are basically singing to their tune”, she said about the government agency. “You're doing all you can to ensure that you're fulfilling criteria, rather than actually educating and caring for young people and children.”

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman acknowledged the debate about reforming inspections to remove grades "is a legitimate one" but insisted school checks aim to raise standards and should continue.

In a statement, Ms Spielman described Ms Perry's death as "a tragedy" and said she was "deeply sorry" for the loss suffered by the headteacher's family, friends and the school community.

She said inspection grades allow parents to see a "simple and accessible summary of a school's strengths and weaknesses" and are used to guide Government decisions about when to intervene in struggling schools.

But according to the ACT, an outstanding Ofsted rating does not always correlate with outstanding sets of results in terms of examination success.

“We've got to also consider the fact that we have had a major world event. About three years ago was the first lockdown”, Ms Harewood told Premier.

“The legacy of the pandemic and those repeated lockdowns continues to affect children”, she added.

“Sometimes that's not taken into account when Ofsted come knocking. We've got to remember as well that head teachers are bearing the responsibility of various societal issues, behaviour management, academic performance. You know, there are huge, huge pressures on head teachers.”


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