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Ofsted, One Year On

flowers Rona

A year ago, I was laying in bed, it was Mother’s Day and I was scrolling through Twitter. Whilst enjoying a few quiet moments lazing in bed, I came across a news story about Ruth Perry, a headteacher at Caversham Primary School. I stopped and read the story and the tears just streamed down my face, it was such a sad story. A headteacher, a wife, a mum, and a sister had felt so traumatized by an Ofsted inspection she had taken her own life. Reading the story on Mother’s Day seemed to make it even worse, this family would be there mourning their loss on a day when all around would be celebrating, and it was hugely unfair.

I am a freelance School Business Manager and I support several schools. I feel the tension of impending Ofsted visits every day of my working life. An ominous, sense of doom just hanging in the air. I have also experienced first-hand the good and the bad of Ofsted inspections over the last ten years, as an employee, as a governor and as a freelance School Business Manager, the pressure is enormous on the Headteacher and Senior Leadership Team.

It made me cross and I felt the need to do something, what could I do?

Well, I thought, I can start a petition! I tried to start one on the Government website, but it isn’t actually that easy to get one up and running straight away! You have to write it up and then get 5 supporters and then wait for it to be approved! That was too slow for how I was feeling, I wanted something now!!

So I logged into my existing Change account and typed out a petition and launched it, sharing the link on Twitter and Facebook. I then went out for the day with my family, when I came home at tea time and had a look, I couldn’t believe my eyes, there were thousands of signatures, and by the time I went to bed, there were tens of thousands and by the next morning, well……

I was blown away, and I didn’t quite know what to do with that information, as I sat there at work in the morning my Office Manager came running through to tell me that she had BBC News on the phone. I was nearly physically sick, and that was just the start of a week of very unusual phone calls, TV and radio interviews. Giving interviews and public speaking is definitely not me. I would normally do anything not to be at ‘the front of the class’ so to speak but this was such an important subject. For too long people in the education sector were too scared to pop their head up over the parapet and speak up, but here they were, signing the petition and speaking up. For so long they had been so scared of the possible repercussions of speaking up that they had put up and shut up, but now here they were signing the petition and speaking up on Twitter and other news platforms.

The momentum of the petition just kept growing, I emailed Gillian Keegan and Amanda Spielman, sharing the link to the home page of the petition and explaining how awful I thought this was, and that it wasn’t an isolated incident. I wrote that there were several other headteacher deaths that were linked to Ofsted inspections, and I asked for comment. To this day neither has responded, I had a couple of limp responses from the regional office of Ofsted but otherwise no real interest, no direct response.

People carried on signing the petition, it just kept growing, I would update the followers and tweet updates etc. People felt very strongly about this and just kept signing. I shared details of the petition with MPs, who largely told me that whilst they empathised, they couldn’t get involved. I felt a bit helpless, I wanted to do more and I didn’t feel like I could, so I kept trying to keep the story up there by continuing to update and tweet and share, as I couldn’t think of anything else I could do.

I tried to get the Government Petition Group to review the petition. We went back and forth with emails but they refused.

I tried to get a new petition up and running on the Government website, but the three I submitted, didn’t get approved.

On the first day of Ruth Perry’s inquest, I was at a school that had an Ofsted inspection, the inspectors were very lovely and went over and above to be kind and considerate, but it was still stressful for all involved.

I watched the updates during the week in relation to Ruth’s inquest, I cried along with many of you, I suspect, the evidence that was given was truly horrifying and then we waited for Ofsted’s response to the coroner’s recommendations. It was a woefully inadequate response! The first day that the pause was lifted, I was linked to a school that had an Ofsted inspection, again the Ofsted inspectors were kind and considerate but the experience was still stressful for everyone.

There was a lot of hope when the new Chief Inspector took on his role, I emailed Sir Martyn Oliver, with the same information that I had sent to Gillian Keegan and Amanda Spielman, I explained that people were still signing, but I didn’t hear anything back.

Does it feel like much has moved forward?

Not much, if I am honest, the one positive is that people working in schools are speaking up, they have put their head above the parapet, which is a good thing but otherwise not much has changed.

So one year on, it is Mother’s Day again, and my heart goes out to Ruth Perry’s family. I still feel like I need to do something, but at the moment I don’t know what…..

There are 247,851 signatures on the petition, as of right now.

I feel a huge responsibility to those people that took the time to sign.

I hope that something positive comes out of all of the publicity and media attention over the year. I am sure that we all agree that Ofsted needs a major overhaul, and reform from the ground upwards, but am I hopeful? No, I am not, unfortunately.

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The author

Rona Metters, mother of 4, grandmother to 6! In my late 50's now, how did that happen! Not as patient and tolerant as I used to be, think it is caused by the menopause affect! Fell into School Business Management 15 years ago. Now the owner of JEM Business Consulting Ltd, we provide professional school business management and administration support to schools in Cambridgeshire/Lincolnshire/Peterborough. For those that may have seen me on Twitter (it will always be Twitter to me!) then you will know that I do get on my high horse from time to time.... Follow me @JEMBusiness2020! Creator of: Cambridgeshire School Business Networking Group - Cambridgeshire School Business Networking Group - Welcome ( Lincolnshire School Business Management Network - Lincolnshire School Business Network. Some of you may also know me this year for being the author of the Petition - Grant an inquiry of the Ofsted inspection at Caversham Primary School - - which is currently sitting at 246,991 signatures! Thank you so much to all that have signed this petition, it has been completely mind blowing.

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