School run by Ruth Perry - who took own life - upgraded to 'good'

7 July 2023, 23:21 | Updated: 8 July 2023, 06:41

Ruth Perry committed suicide
Ruth Perry committed suicide. Picture: Handout
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Ofsted inspectors have now rated as good the school run by a headteacher who took her own life after it was given an inadequate rating.

Ruth Perry was headteacher of Caversham Primary School before she died in January this year following a report which downgraded her school from the highest rating - outstanding - to the lowest over safeguarding concerns.

The school, in Reading, Berkshire, was reinspected on June 21 and 22 and the fresh report, which does not mention Ms Perry, rates it good in all categories.

Her sister Professor Julia Waters said the upgraded rating was a testament to the work of Ms Perry and the staff she led since the initial inspection in November last year.

Ruth Perry took her own life
Ruth Perry took her own life. Picture: Handout

She said: "The reversal of the previous judgement in a matter of a few months illustrates why schools should be given the opportunity to correct any technical weaknesses before the final report is published.

"An inspection should be about helping schools with independent scrutiny, not catching them out and publicly shaming them. Ofsted's use of safeguarding as a 'limiting judgement', overriding all other strengths and complexities of a school, puts headteachers in that position of constant jeopardy."

In a copy of the new report seen by the PA news agency, inspectors said: "The school's work to address previous weaknesses has been swift, thorough and effective.

"Straight after the last inspection, useful advice was sought from beyond the school. In particular, this helped leaders to understand fully the extent of the weaknesses in safeguarding arrangements and prioritise what needed to be done.

"Ongoing and determined work has ensured that the improvements made have gone beyond the essential changes that were needed."

Read More: Ofsted to keep 'one-word assessments' despite backlash following death of headteacher Ruth Perry

Read More: Headteacher 'blocks Ofsted inspection' in protest after head Ruth Perry, 53, took her own life over ‘inadequate’ rating

Should the school not object to anything in the report, it will take around eight working days for it to be published widely. There have been widespread calls for Ofsted to revamp its school ratings system - which uses summative words such as "outstanding" and "inadequate" - following Ms Perry's death.

Prof Waters said: "That Ruth was left feeling suicidal as a result of Ofsted's previous judgement demonstrates, in the most tragic way possible, the intolerably high stakes created by the current inspection system.

"Ruth was not the first headteacher or teacher to take her own life following an Ofsted inspection. I am determined that she should be the last."

In the new report it explains how safeguarding arrangements are now "effective", with the previous inspection finding the school's leaders did not ensure safeguarding was effective throughout the school.

The report sent to the school said: "A positive culture of safeguarding now pervades the school.

"Detailed and relevant training ensures that all staff fully understand their role in keeping children safe.

"The legally required recruitment and vetting checks are now fully in place for all adults working at the school."

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: "I can confirm we inspected Caversham Primary school on 21 and 22 June.

"This is in line with the procedures set out in our school monitoring handbook and our recent announcement around returning to some schools more quickly.

"The report will be published in due course."

Earlier this week, the watchdog's chief inspector said inspectors who produced the initial report were "professional and humane" in their role.

Amanda Spielman acknowledged there were issues around accountability at schools but reaffirmed her support for Ofsted's current one-word ratings.

Ofsted has announced a series of changes, including launching a consultation on reforms to the complaints system and giving schools more information around the timing of their inspections.

Schools graded inadequate overall due only to ineffective safeguarding - but where all other judgments were good or better - will be revisited by inspectors within three months of a report being published as part of the reforms.

Last month it was announced MPs will be launching an inquiry into the school watchdog and whether they can be improved.

The inquiry - by cross-party MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee - will look into concerns that the one-word ratings that Ofsted gives to schools may not be conducive to helping schools improve.

MPs will consider the impact of Ofsted inspections on the workload and wellbeing of teachers, school leaders and pupils as part of the inquiry.

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