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Former Ofsted chief to lead watchdog’s independent review

Ofsted has named a former chief inspector to lead the independent inquiry into its response to Ruth Perry’s death. 

The inspectorate today revealed Dame Christine Gilbert will lead the review. She served as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector at Ofsted from 2006 until 2011.

It comes after a coroner ruled in December the Caversham Primary School headteacher’s death by suicide was contributed to by an Ofsted inspection. 

In her prevention of future deaths report issued in the wake of Perry’s inquest, coroner Heidi Connor noted that “no learning review was conducted by Ofsted” into its handling of her death and that there was “no policy requiring this to be done”.

The inspectorate responded to the report in January and pledged that by March it would appoint a “recognised expert from the education sector” to lead the review. 

But Ofsted today said the review will not examine the inspection of Caversham Primary School in November 2022, or the judgements it made – just its response.

Dame Christine will begin her review this month and will “have access to relevant internal records and be able to speak with any member of Ofsted staff she chooses”, the watchdog said.

She will also have the opportunity to meet Perry’s family and speak to them about the review.

Ofsted said it will “assist Dame Christine in obtaining any specialist advice she requires, such as in the areas of mental health and well-being”.

Dame Christine will produce a written report on her findings later this year.

It comes after Perry’s sister Professor Julia Water asked when Ofsted would announce the start of the promised independent review during an address to the NEU union conference last week.

The independent expert will consider ‘whether Ofsted’s internal policies and processes for responding to tragic incidents need to be revised’, Ofsted has said. 

Ofsted has said it will publish the expert’s recommendations and formally respond to these as part of the response to its ongoing ‘Big Listen’ consultation. 

In its response to the coroner, Ofsted committed to “clearly” defining the “circumstances in which a learning review will be commissioned, who will conduct it, how it will be carried out and arrangements for publishing and disseminating the lessons learned”.

It today said the review willl consider the actions Ofsted took in response to hearing about the death of Perry; Ofsted’s communications, its engagement with stakeholders and information-sharing within Ofsted regarding the incident; the support Ofsted offered internally to staff, including inspectors, and how its approach was informed by clearly defined policies.

Update on Ofsted’s mental health training target

The inspectorate also previously pledged that all its inspectors would complete new mental health awareness training by the end of March. 

Last week, the watchdog said that all inspectors currently conducting inspections have completed the training.

A spokesperson said that in total, 3,318 out of 3,414 inspectors, 97 per cent,  completed the course by March 31. 

Of the 96 who did not, they said 31 are employees who have been absent from work due to illness or parental leave, they will be required to complete the training when they return to work and before returning to inspection. 

The other 65 are contractors who will either complete the training before they return to inspection, or will stop working for Ofsted, they added. 

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