Ofsted: Response to Prevention of Future Deaths report

Kathy Oxtoby
Friday, January 19, 2024

Ofsted has responded in full to a Prevention of Future Deaths report issued by HM Coroner, ahead of school and further education inspections being notified next week.

Sir Martyn Oliver, Ofsted's new chief inspector. PHOTO: Ofsted
Sir Martyn Oliver, Ofsted's new chief inspector. PHOTO: Ofsted

Ofsted has pledged to ‘always act with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect’, in a response to a Prevention of Future Deaths report issued by HM Coroner last December.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, has today (19 January 2024) published Ofsted’s formal response, addressing each of the recommendations set out by the coroner following the inquest into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Ofsted action

The letter sets out what action has been taken before, and immediately after the inquest as well as what Ofsted proposes to do next.

Action includes that all inspectors are trained to recognise and respond to signs of distress in school leaders, and a clear and simple process for providers who have concerns about an inspection to speak to an unconnected senior Ofsted employee.

It also includes a new policy on pausing an inspection, an expert reference group - including external representation - to look at leader and staff well-being, and appointing an independent expert to lead a learning review of Ofsted’s response to the tragic death of Ruth Perry.

Sir Martyn will also conduct a comprehensive listening exercise, the Big Listen, across all the sectors that Ofsted works in.   

The Big Listen will be ‘an opportunity to hear directly from parents, leaders and professionals about Ofsted’s current approach, the changes being made, and whether more can be done to protect children, raise standards and improve lives’, Ofsted said.

‘We know we still need to do more, and we will do more’

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, said: ‘As a fellow headteacher, I was shocked and saddened by the death of Ruth Perry. As the new chief inspector, I am determined to do everything in my power to prevent such tragedies in the future. We accept the coroner’s findings and have responded to the recommendations of her report in full.

‘We must carry out our role in a way that is sensitive to the pressures faced by leaders and staff, without losing our focus on children and learners. Our critical work helps make sure that children and learners have the highest quality of education, training and care. We cannot afford to shy away from difficult decisions and challenging conversations where they are needed in the interests of children. I am determined that we get this delicate balance right.’  

He added: ‘We know we still need to do more, and we will do more. Nothing is off the table, as we hold our Big Listen. I know how important it is for the sectors we work with, and for parents and carers, to trust the judgements Ofsted makes. To achieve that aim, we must go about our vital work with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect.’

The Big Listen presents an opportunity for all of us to work together in finding effective solutions’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: ‘This report comes from the tragic circumstances of Ruth Perry’s death and our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time. We are pleased to see that Ofsted is taking positive steps to understand and deal with the pressures that educators are under, both during and after inspections.

‘We speak with nurseries who tell us about the stress they, and their staff teams, feel under when being inspected or when they are anticipating an inspection, so we know this is a common experience which must be handled sensitively. Sir Martyn Oliver has promised inspectors will be professional, courteous, empathetic and respectful, which is very positive.

‘While there is an understanding that all of Ofsted’s work will be reviewed as a result of this report, we look forward to a positive working relationship with the new team leading the organisation to ensure the specific pressures on early years leaders are recognised and addressed. The Big Listen presents an opportunity for all of us to work together in finding effective solutions.

‘The early years sector must be central to these reforms, alongside our school and further education peers’

The Early Years Alliance warned Ofsted must include early years in inspection reforms. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said: ‘We know that for many working in education settings, inspections can be an incredibly daunting and stressful prospect. As such, Ofsted's commitment to taking a more compassionate approach to visits is to be welcomed.

‘That said, while we recognise that the plans announced today were prompted by concerns raised around school inspections, we're absolutely clear that the early years sector must be central to these reforms, alongside our school and further education peers.

‘Recent research conducted by the Alliance found that around eight in 10 early years providers are regularly stressed about inspections, with many providers describing the severe negative impact that Ofsted visits have had on their mental wellbeing.

"There is no question, therefore, that the need for professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect in inspections must apply to all sectors under Ofsted's remit. The hardworking professionals who support children across all areas of care and education deserve nothing less.’

 

 

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