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Can the Profession Afford the Mental Health Costs of OFSTED?


In light of recent news events which have touched the hearts and minds of the entire teaching profession, there are schools now considering whether they can refuse entry to OFSTED. 

The short answer to the question posed in the title of, Can our teaching profession bear the mental health costs of OFSTED? Is a resounding ‘no’. 

Enough is enough. I have set out in this article a review of current opinions and considerations about what schools can do moving forward. I should add here that some schools have identified that their OFSTED visits have been positive and fair and that they have no issues. This is great to hear but unfortunately, in many instances, the toll on mental health and wellbeing of impending inspections and meeting targets that are ‘aspirational’ at best and ‘impossible’ at worst, is too much for the profession to take. Couple that with a recruitment and retention crisis and staff are increasingly voting with their feet. Schools Week (September 22), reports that 12,646 applicants to secondary initial teacher training (ITT) courses this year had been recruited which is way off the 20,945 target. With the government more than 35% below their teacher recruitment targets in this sector and with a major short fall in the primary sector also, where will this leave the profession in three, five and ten years?

At the time of writing and as a result of the tragic news about the death of Ruth Perry, Schools Week reports that a headteacher has already planned to boycott her school’s inspection which puts her and her school in a legal predicament as technically, you cannot refuse. The Education Act states that when inspecting a school, the chief inspector has at “all reasonable times” a right of entry to the premises. I have been following her progress on Twitter and understandably, she is nervous about repercussions as she understands that she could lose her job. However, she and those who are turning up at her school feel extremely strongly about the situation. If her school were close by, I’d be down there myself. 

Just this week on Twitter, the following tweets have been sent. This is a tiny cross-section of Tweets which outline how the profession is feeling right now. 

‘Sadly I have seen many Heads and Deputies broken by Ofsted. Many suffer a huge impact on their mental health. We need systemic change.’ @neuroteachers

‘It’s not hard to understand that for heads, and all school staff, a v negative Ofsted inspection, when you’ve worked extremely hard for your school community, can seriously impact your mental health.’ @AdrianBethume

‘I am writing to @Ofstednews about the impact of inspection on the health of Headteachers on behalf of 800 heads who have reached out to me. Please can we stop celebrating Ofsted grades on social media to protect the mental health of our colleagues #istandwithheadteachers’ @DestinoNadia

‘The pressure of impending Ofsted is like nothing else. Since our inspection, I sleep better, eat better and spend less money on ‘things’ to try boost my mood. My relationship with family is better. My heart rate is lower. The mental, and physical, toll is huge. Time for change.’ @secretHT1

The unrest is gaining momentum with The Chartered College of Teaching has joining forces with Education Support in a call to the education secretary, demanding that a teaching crisis is indeed acknowledged.

This chain of events have also coincided with NEU strike action over the past few weeks calling for change. They state that, 

‘Long hours and poor pay are the main reasons teachers are leaving the profession in their droves. This Government is presiding over one of the worst recruitment and retention crises ever seen in education. An overwhelming 90.44% of teachers and 84% of support staff voted for strike action.’

This situation fills me with sadness. The profession I once loved is unrecognisable and increasingly untenable. I worry for my children who are currently in primary school. If we fast forward three years, what will their educational experience look like? To improve this situation, I would consider that:

  • Issues and change within the profession need to be started at the top, i.e. government level.
  • There is no space for OFSTED in our educational landscape in its current format. Let’s rebrand and relaunch with a coaching model.
  • Wellbeing for staff and pupils should be the backbone of every school, achievement and progress will follow. Support schools with this and the rest will fall into place.
  • Address recruitment and retention rapidly with funding and resources which reflect not only the hours staff work but also the needs of the setting. With a wellbeing focus, needless workload can be reduced. 

I’m confident that our profession’s current leaders will be increasingly more maverick, despite potential repercussions, to incite positive changes. Not only improving teacher wellbeing but in turn, pupils’ educational experiences for the better. 

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The author

Lynn has been teaching for 20 years during which time she has been an Assistant Head and a Lead Mentor at a Teacher Training institution. Currently, she is working as a SENCO. She loves to write, including research, children‘s poetry and she has an MA in Education, NASENCO and NPQH. Lynn’s particular areas of interest are wellbeing (staff and pupil), SEND, children’s mental health, leadership, mentoring and coaching. She has written for Teacher Toolkit and has her own blog The site hosts a range of articles, resources and info graphics on all things SEMH - including educator wellbeing. She also has a coaching group with free monthly events: In her leisure time, she loves to spend time with her family and in the great outdoors walking and climbing. She is also a Scout climbing instructor and assessor. Her children are 10 and 6 and therefore she can appreciate first-hand the pressure children, educators and parents are under!

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