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Ofsted Ruth Perry report response: What you need to know

Ofsted and the Department for Education have responded to a prevention of future deaths report from the coroner who oversaw the inquest into headteacher Ruth Perry’s death.

Here is your trusty Schools Week speed read on the changes both organisations have promised today (and a reminder of what changes have already been implemented).

Coroner’s concern 1

The schools with serious safeguarding concerns and those with issues that can be fixed quickly receive the same overall grade.

‘No-one should feel as Ruth did’ says Ofsted chief

What Ofsted plans to do:

  • Conduct a formal internal review of where safeguarding fits with individual inspection judgments
  • Explore having safeguarding as a standalone judgment, ‘decoupled’ from the leadership and management grade
  • Examine whether further changes can give more time for improvement for schools with ineffective safeguarding but judged ‘good’ or better in other areas
  • Hold a comprehensive listening exercise called ‘The Big Listen’ between March and June
  • ‘Where appropriate’, changes will come in immediately. Ofsted will consult by September on more major changes, and introduce them in the 2024-25 academic year

What DfE plans to do:

  • Review the way the government engages and communicates with schools where intervention is considered or implemented, to ensure it is undertaken ‘sensitively and with full consideration of the possible impact on school leaders’
  • Train DfE regions group officials and ‘relevant’ ESFA staff on how to pick up on distress and respond to it
  • Launch a call for evidence on whether further changes to safeguarding guidance are needed

Coroner’s concern 2

An ‘almost complete absence’ of training or policy on spotting and dealing with distress and pausing inspections

What Ofsted plans to do:

  • Publish a new policy today on pausing inspections of state schools where a serious issue has been identified requiring ‘substantial action’
  • Develop a long-term programme of training for inspectors on mental health and supporting leaders’ wellbeing, with a roadmap due this spring
  • Form an expert reference group to provide ‘constructive challenge’ and look at ‘aspects of training and where well-being might be incorporated more explicitly across the education inspection framework’

What the DfE plans to do:

  • DfE regions group will proactively notify responsible bodies when a provider receives an adverse inspection outcome

Coroner’s concern 3

Absence of a clear path to raise concerns during an inspection if these cannot be resolved directly with the lead inspector

What Ofsted plans to do:

  • Work with sector bodies to make sure ‘roles, responsibilities and process for raising and responding to concerns about leaders’ welfare’ are understood clearly by the inspection team and the responsible body
  • Clarify in handbooks, guidance, code of conduct and complaints procedures how providers can raise concerns about inspectors’ behaviour. Process to be complete by the end of March

Coroner’s concern 4

Changes to the confidentiality requirement after an inspection have not yet been written into policy, meaning some leaders may fear discussing outcomes

What Ofsted plans to do:

  • Communicate the message that leaders can share provisional outcomes and the draft report with those they deem appropriate, including partners, health professionals and those providing personal support

Coroner’s concern 5

Timescales for report publication

What Ofsted plans to do:

  • Review, in the first half of 2024, quality assurance processes to ‘see if we can make further changes to reduce the amount of time between an inspection and the publication of a report’
  • Findings will feed into the Big Listen and will be part of the proposals put to the sector and parents for their views
  • Where reports do take longer to be published, ‘we will endeavour to explain why’

Coroner’s concern 6

No learning review of these matters was conducted by Ofsted. There is no policy requiring this to be done

What Ofsted plans to do:

  • By March, appoint a ‘recognised expert from the education sector to lead an independent learning review of Ofsted’s response’ to Perry’s death
  • The independent expert will consider ‘whether Ofsted’s internal policies and processes for responding to tragic incidents need to be revised’
  • Define clearly 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’

Coroner’s concern 7

Ofsted was not able to say what additional support government was providing for leaders

What Ofsted plans to do:

  • Ensure inspectors are ‘conversant with this support and ready to remind leaders that it is available’
  • Through training, ‘reinforce the expectation that they share this information with leaders at the beginning of an inspection’

What the DfE plans to do:

  • Increase awareness and take-up of a programme of support for school leaders

Refresher: What Ofsted has already done

  • Updated handbooks to make clear that schools can fix minor administrative issues during inspections
  • Introduced policy of revisiting schools with safeguarding issues but that are otherwise ‘good’ within three months
  • Depersonalised language in reports to refer to schools rather than individuals
  • Introduced a national safeguarding duty desk that inspectors can call if evidence points to ineffective safeguarding
  • Changed its handbook to allow heads and teachers to have a colleague join discussions with inspectors
  • Introduced a helpline for managing concerns about the inspection process
  • All lead inspectors are now required to request contact details of the person responsible for leaders’ wellbeing
  • All lead inspectors given mental health awareness training. All remaining inspectors to be trained by end of March
  • Proposed a new complaints process allowing schools to contact Ofsted the day after an inspection and for direct escalation to an independent body

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