The headteacher and deputy at the first school revisited under the Ofsted rapid re-inspection system – introduced after Ruth Perry’s death – have resigned, saying the process was still too “traumatic”.
The watchdog announced in June that all schools graded ‘inadequate’ due to ineffective safeguarding, but where all other judgments were ‘good’ or better, would be revisited within three months of their report’s publication.
The policy was introduced after the death of Perry, who had been headteacher at Caversham Primary in Berkshire. Ofsted said it would “allow the school to put matters right and have its grade swiftly changed”.
Previously, another graded inspection for such schools could take up to two-and-a-half years.
Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, in Leeds, was rated ‘good’ in a report published earlier this month after a rapid reinspection in November.
Ofsted safeguarding checks ‘not fit for purpose’
The school had previously been rated ‘inadequate’. While the report, published in September, highlighted “weaknesses in safeguarding practice”, it was ‘good’ in all other areas.
But headteacher Joseph Masley and his deputy Kate Bates said the “unfair” inspection result last summer had a “profound” impact on them.
They have worked at the school for 12 and 10 years respectively, but handed in their notices after the last inspection result was published, despite the better rating.
Masley said the ‘inadequate’ was down to “the way that we recorded some actions on our safeguarding system” which was “rectified” the day after it was flagged as a problem.
“No child was ever at any risk,” he said, adding the current system “isn’t fit for purpose”.
“The impact on us from that June inspection was profound and you can actually reflect on the situation Ruth Perry found herself in and understand it,” he said.
Leaders told: ‘This has to happen’
“The fact we were able to support one another was crucial because it was a very tough time, unnecessary and traumatic.”
He claimed the inspector told the team in June: “You’re really good in all other areas, you’re an outstanding leadership team, but this has to happen.”
Ofsted “didn’t get it back to us before our summer holiday, so Kate and I went off on our summer holiday wondering what on earth this report is going to say”.
“Then they came back in November and suddenly everything was great, and they kept asking us about our wellbeing.”
Masley added they got “two days’ warning” before the re-inspection, an “extra day” than normal, “which was a positive”.
Bates welcomed the reinspection within 12 weeks as “much better than two years”. Massey also got “regular phone calls from the lead inspector, which is welcome” after the revisit.
Ofsted revisit ‘intense’
But Bates said the revisit was “exceptionally intense” as it “had to ensure that the judgments made that were ‘good’ in June were still sound”.
While it started as a monitoring inspection looking at safeguarding, it was upgraded to a full, section five inspection, “where we had to revisit all the other areas that were judged ‘good’ only 10 weeks ago … we found it nonsensical,” Masley said. Bates questioned why this was needed.
Masley added the ‘inadequate’ grade is also “not going away. That’s always the case and because of that, and for a number of other reasons, both my deputy and I have handed our notice in so we will be leaving in the summer.”
Other reasons include “disillusionment with the system: we can’t trust what happened to us. If we were an ‘inadequate’ school then fair enough, but we’re not.”
Bates added that “going forward, for us, one-word judgements cannot be used to sum up such a complex organisation as a school”.
Being a head ‘traumatic and wearing’
“And that word ‘inadequate’ is wholly inappropriate and dreadful to use. The impact of that word on me and Joe has been really big,” she added.
The inquest into Perry’s death heard she thought the ‘inadequate’ grade her school received over safeguarding issues “was the end of her career”.
Caversham was reinspected in June last year and deemed ‘good’ after “weaknesses in safeguarding arrangements” had been addressed.
Bates said her disillusionment included “the level of pressure” from both Ofsted and the government.
“It just reinforced my distrust in the system. It made me feel this job, in the current form and current system, is not worth it.”
The pair do not have other jobs lined up. Bates said “at the minute I haven’t got the resilience to be able to do the job”.
Masley added: “I’m not ruling out being a head in another school at another time, but it is traumatic and it is wearing – so it will be a break. We have taken a big step. It’s a ballsy decision.”