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Reading council to challenge rogue Ofsted inspections

Reading Borough Council will survey its headteachers annually about their mental health and take responsibility for challenging rogue inspections following the death of Ruth Perry.

The council said “the loss of Ruth must lead to learning and positive changes” in its response to three key concerns raised in a coroner’s ‘prevention of future deaths’ report.

Coroner Heidi Connor last year ruled an Ofsted inspection contributed to the suicide of Perry, who was headteacher at Caversham primary in Reading.

As well as wider concerns over Ofsted and the government, she recommended the council have a “written policy or guidance” to back up its stated “intention to adopt a more robust and proactive approach to dealing with” the inspectorate.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), the not-for-profit organisation which runs education in Reading, has now said it will adopt the policy.

This will include “taking on responsibility for raising challenges to future Ofsted inspections on behalf of local schools”.

Ruth Perry

It will be written into a revised ‘school effectiveness framework’, subject to approval by councillors.

At the inquest, Connor said it was “clear” Reading “felt that Ofsted’s decision was wrong and unfair” and “knew Ruth was not in a position to raise concerns herself”.

But “they did not make a single word of comment on the draft report, despite asking for the opportunity to do so”.

It will also commission an independent external learning review. Perry’s family will help finalise the terms of reference and it will conclude in April.

Ruth Perry’s sister Julia Waters said she hoped the review will be “rigorous and the resulting recommendations useful and far-reaching enough, to ensure a tragedy like Ruth’s cannot happen again”.

But she added: “We do not feel the council has yet put forward a convincing set of actions to address the coroner’s concerns”.

She added: “We are genuinely shocked to learn that the council is only now proposing to bring in many of the policies and actions that most people would expect from a responsible employer. It shows that the council has not been providing the kind of practical or psychological support that headteachers say they need.”

On its new survey, Reading said results will “inform updates” to its current support package offer.

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