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The death of headteacher Ruth Perry following an Ofsted inspection has been described as a watershed moment, a shift in the way that most people think about school inspections. It’s a tragedy which has thrown into sharp focus something which should be obvious – no system for checking on performance and standards should ever have such a devastating impact as this on an individual human being. 

An inquest has yet to take place, and we should be careful not to prejudge its verdict, but it is very clear that Ms Perry was deeply traumatised by the outcome of an inspection which downgraded her school – a school to which she had devoted her life – from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’. Her family’s account of the agonising impact this had on her is heartbreaking. 

Whether or not this case leads to any actual change remains to be seen.  

ASCL, alongside the NAHT and NEU, called this week for a pause to inspections. Our view is that this would allow time for a review to take place into the impact of the system on the wellbeing of leaders and teachers. It could consider immediate changes – including the removal of overall graded judgements such as ‘inadequate’ which reduces everything that a school does to a single, brutal word – as well as a commitment to longer term reforms. We set all this out recently in our discussion paper on the future of inspection.

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