Schools watchdog Ofsted is facing a revolt from educators after the suicide of a primary school headteacher who was facing a negative inspection result.
Some heads have threatened to refuse Ofsted inspectors entry to their schools in response to the case of Ruth Perry, head at Caversham Primary near Reading, who took her own life in January while waiting for an inspection report.
The report, yet to be published, downgraded the school from “outstanding” to “inadequate”, citing management issues.
Meanwhile, union leaders from the National Education Union (NEU), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have called for all school inspections to be halted in response to the case.
Flora Cooper, executive headteacher of the John Rankin Schools in nearby Newbury, Berkshire, said she planned to refuse Ofsted inspectors entry to her school for a scheduled inspection on Tuesday.
She told Schools Week: “I could lose my job but I feel like if I don’t stand up for every child, every member of staff, every school leader out there the system will never change.”
Ms Cooper admitted she had “no idea what the legal implications of this are… but legally someone can’t come into my school if I’m telling them they’re not allowed in.”
It is understood that Ofsted is in contact with the school and is trying to resolve the situation.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton called on Ofsted to pause inspections and “undertake an immediate review of the impact of inspections on the well-being of school and college leaders and staff”.
He demanded “urgent consideration to reform of the inspection system to make it fairer and less punitive” and should consider “replacing the current system of graded judgements which reduce everything that a school or college does to a single blunt descriptor”.
Mary Bousted of the NEU said: “Given recent events and widespread concerns about leaders’ well-being, 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 counterproductive stress they cause for school leaders, and the impact on leaders.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The anger and hurt being expressed currently by school staff is palpable. It is essential that all policymakers, 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.”
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.”