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DfE: ‘No plans’ to change single-phrase Ofsted judgments

The government has said it has “no plans” to change single-phrase Ofsted judgments, following reports they could be scrapped following Ruth Perry’s death.

The Department for Education’s response to the education committee’s report on Ofsted, which was due at the end of March, is set to be published on Thursday.

In their report in January, MPs said a more “nuanced” alternative to “totemic” Ofsted single-phrase judgments should be developed as a “priority”.

But the department today denied plans were afoot to change one-word judgments after the Sunday Times reported they were likely to be scrapped.

The DfE said “while we are not looking to change one word judgements, the secretary of state has been clear that we will look at ways to improve the current system”.

The department said the single-phrase judgments “give parents the confidence in choosing the right school for their child and provide a clear basis for taking action to improve underperforming schools”.

Perry’s sister Julia Waters told Schools Week she is “disappointed that the news the government plans to scrap single-word Ofsted judgements is, at best, premature or, at worse, wishful thinking”.

“Given the overwhelmingly positive reception that the suggestion has received from across the teaching profession and beyond, I do hope the secretary of state will finally see sense and do away with these reductive, misleading and dangerous labels,” she added.

“They are just one small but highly visible feature of a wider, punitive, high-stakes system of school inspection which needs urgent, root-and-branch reform.”

In January, committee chair Robin Walker, a former schools minister, said “on the now totemic issue of single-word judgements, Ofsted and ministers should heed the widespread calls for change”.

Robin Walker MP

He urged Sir Martyn Oliver, Ofsted’s chief inspector, and the government to “consider a more nuanced system that can provide value to both schools and parents”.

A coroner ruled in December that an Ofsted inspection of Caversham Primary School in Reading contributed to Perry’s suicide.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan defended single-phrase judgments in the wake of Perry’s death, saying there were “clear” and “simple to understand”.

In April last year, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think one-word assessments are there to make sure it’s easy for parents to navigate them.”

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