Caversham Primary: Head blocks Ofsted school inspection in protest after Ruth Perry’s death over Ofsted rating

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A primary school headteacher said she would refuse entry to Ofsted inspectors if they came into her school to take a stand against the inspection process.

A primary school headteacher has blocked an Ofsted inspection to ‘take a stand’ following the death of a fellow head who took her own life after being told her school was being downgraded from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Inadequate’.

Ruth Perry, 53, who had worked at Caversham Primary School in Reading for 13 years, took her own life in January after learning of the Ofsted downgrade, which the family described as leaving her in a "shadow of her former self" following an inspection last November.

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Now, a teacher at a school around 20 miles away from Caversham primary school has blocked inspectors from the education watchdog from entering its premises. Flora Cooper, head of John Rankin School in Newbury said she is ‘taking a stand’ against the inspection process.

She tweeted on Monday morning (March 20): “I’ve just had the call. I’ve refused entry. This is an interesting phone call. Doing this for everyone, for our school staff everywhere!” She then followed it with another tweet: “Need support! Please! We have to do this! I’m taking the stand!”

In an interview with BBC South last week, Ruth’s sister, Professor Julia Walters said Ruth claimed inspectors saw a boy doing a floss dance and took that as evidence of ‘sexualisation’ of children at the school. She said inspectors told staff they had seen child-on-abuse, which turned out to be a playground fight.

Describing the whole process a “complete injustice’, Julia said her sister had a “weight hanging over her” while waiting for the report to be published. Ruth then took her own life on January 8.

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Ofsted report ‘direct result’ of pressure

In a statement released on behalf of the family on Monday (March 20) Julia has claimed the Ofsted findings were “disproportionate, unfair and has tragically been proven, deeply harmful in their focus on one individual.”

She said the family were in “no doubt” that Ruth’s death was a “direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome” of the inspection.” She said: “Our hope is that Ruth’s sudden, appaling death will be the last to occur as a result of the intolerable pressures caused by the Ofsted system.”

Ruth Perry was the headteacher at Caversham Primary School (Photo: Brighter Futures for Children)Ruth Perry was the headteacher at Caversham Primary School (Photo: Brighter Futures for Children)
Ruth Perry was the headteacher at Caversham Primary School (Photo: Brighter Futures for Children) | Brighter Futures for Children

In the latest Ofsted report that is now publicly available, inspectors found the school to be ‘Good’ in every category except leadership and management. It accused the school of poor record keeping and failings in employment checks, which could have put children at risk.

A petition calling for an inquiry into the Ofsted inspection at Caversham Primary School following Ruth’s death has also been launched, with more than 100,000 signatures gathered so far. It said: “Ofsted need to look into this case specifically, review the inspection and the actual wording of that report, what could have been done better.

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“They also need to review the whole system, it isn’t working, inspections are too unwieldy and it takes too long to get through them leaving schools for too many years between inspections three, five, 10, 13 plus years is too long between inspections. They need to be smarter, quicker and more supportive.”

Caversham’s Outstanding rating was awarded in 2009 and the recent inspection, which downgraded it to the worst rating, only took place in November last year. It was the first since Ruth took office, after rules around monitoring of Outstanding schools were changed.

Government backs Ofsted inspections

Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department that inspects schools and other education services. The government maintains it is still important to ensure a good and safe standard of learning across the country.

It told Sky News: “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.”

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