Pressure is mounting on Ofsted as schools across the country show their support for headteacher Ruth Perry, who took her own life while waiting for the publication of a negative inspection report.
Teachers at John Rankin School in Newbury, Berkshire â where the headteacher had planned to refuse Ofsted inspectors entry but then reversed her decision â wore black armbands outside the school on Tuesday.
Parents and former teachers at the school gates criticised Ofsted as the inspection got under way â and one protester called the process âcruelâ.
Now primary school leaders in Suffolk are meeting to decide whether to take âcollective actionâ during Ofsted inspections in solidarity with Ms Perry.
The Suffolk Primary Headteachersâ Association (SPHA) will discuss displaying a photograph of the late headteacher when inspectors visit schools, wearing black armbands and starting inspections with a minuteâs silence.
It follows the death of Ms Perry, headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, who killed herself in January while waiting for an Ofsted report which gave her school the lowest rating, her family said.
Professor Julia Waters, Ms Perryâs sister, said the watchdogâs report was âdeeply harmfulâ in its âimplied focus on one individualâ.
The inspection report, published on Ofstedâs website on Tuesday, found the school to be âgoodâ in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be âinadequateâ.
A version of the report on the schoolâs website refers to a change of leadership âfollowing the death of the headteacher who was in post at the time of the inspectionâ, but Ofstedâs report does not mention her death.
It is understood the line was removed from the finalised Ofsted report following a reflection on the sensitivities.
A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has more than 128,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, three unions representing teachers and headteachers have urged Ofsted to pause inspections this week.
She told the PA news agency: âI have had strength of feeling from headteachers who would be prepared to do something.
âI think that Ruthâs death, that tragedy, has given people courage to speak out about things that they have been concerned about for a very long time.â
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: âThis shows the strength of feeling among leaders and teachers over the death of Ruth Perry and the desperate need for reform of an inspection system which is far too harsh and punitive.â
On Tuesday, some teachers at John Rankin School walked out to the school gates for a photograph wearing black armbands, and then later on executive headteacher Flora Cooper welcomed pupils also wearing a black armband.
Liz, a former teacher mentored by Ms Perry who held a placard saying âRIP Ruthâ outside the Newbury primary school, said the inspection process caused âincredible amounts of stressâ.
Jelena, who has a child at John Rankin Junior School, said she was backing Ms Cooper against âintensely cruelâ Ofsted inspections, and she added that the system was âantiquated and needs a complete reformâ.
The protest came after Ms Waters suggested a number of actions could be taken by school staff in memory of her sister Ms Perry â including wearing black armbands when inspectors are on site.
In a statement on behalf of her family, Ms Waters said some of the Ofsted inspectorsâ conclusions were âsensationalistâ and âdrawn from scant evidenceâ.
She said her sister died âunder intolerable pressure from external scrutinyâ.
Ms Waters said: âWe are in no doubt that Ruthâs death was a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection at her school.â
The family rejects Ofstedâs judgment of Ms Perryâs leadership and they are calling for the system to be reviewed and changed to focus on the welfare of teaching staff and pupils.
âWe support anyone who cares about education in this country and wishes to drive forward rapid, far-reaching change to Ofstedâs punitive regime,â Ms Waters added.
âThis is not something that is new, but recent tragic events have certainly brought things to a head.
âIt is essential that Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE) listen to what educational professions are saying â now is the time for change.â
An inquest into the headteacherâs death will take place at Berkshire Coronerâs Court later this year.
Matthew Purves, Ofstedâs regional director for the South East, said: âWe were deeply saddened by Ruth Perryâs tragic death.
âOur thoughts remain with Mrs Perryâs family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.â
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