Row at school at centre of Ofsted mutiny as furious parents blast teachers for ‘disrupting’ their children’s education with protest as staff put up pictures of head who killed herself after inspection
- Caversham Primary School’s Ruth Perry killed herself after poor Ofsted report
- The family of headteacher Perry blasted the report as ‘unfair’ and ‘sensationalist’
The mutiny against Ofsted turned into a row among teachers and parents today, with some blasting a school for threatening to block inspectors while others staged a silent protest against the watchdog.
Pupils at John Rankin School in Newbury arrived for a delayed start of 10am as police stood outside and protesters held placards reading ‘RIP Ruth’, in reference to another school leader Ruth Perry who killed herself while awaiting a negative report downgrading her school to inadequate.
The school found itself at the centre of national controversy after chief headteacher Flora Cooper announced plans to boycott Ofsted following the tragic death of fellow Ms Perry at a school in Reading, Berkshire.
Parents complained that they had only been told of the late start at 10pm the previous night, forcing them to make hasty arrangements for their children to be dropped off.
Vanessa Pummell, a teacher at a nearby school, told MailOnline she was forced to take her son in Year 1 and daughter in Year 2 and delay going to work herself.
Headteacher Flora Cooper, wearing a black armband, stands next to a photograph of Ruth Perry as she closes the school gate at John Rankin Schools in Newbury, Berkshire
Fellow headteacher Ruth Perry killed herself in January while waiting for an Ofsted report which gave her school the lowest possible rating, her family said
Teachers held placards saying ‘RIP Ruth’ at a protest outside John Rankin School today
She said: ‘I understand the cause but it is not a great way of handling it.
‘[Inspections are] one of those things that have to be done. It’s just disruption again for the children, after the strikes and everything.’
She added: ‘It’s frustrating. You’ve got to think about the children. At 10pm it wasn’t the message we wanted.’
Asked about Ms Cooper’s threat to block Ofsted from inspecting the school Ms Pummell said: ‘You want to know how the school is getting on. It is a legal requirement.
‘It’s a little concerning.’
Angela Jarman, 66, said that she was forced to drop her granddaughter off at the school as her parents had to go to work and were unable to change their schedule to accommodate the delayed start.
She said: ‘I don’t think they should be doing what they’re doing at all. I quite agree with what Ofsted are doing.
‘Why does she not want Ofsted going in? It’s frustrating.’
Jelena, who has a child at John Rankin Junior School, said she was backing Ms Cooper against ‘intensely cruel’ Ofsted inspections.
The mother said: ‘The system is so antiquated and needs a complete reform.
‘To give a school so little notice and put that school and those teachers under pressure when they’re already under pressure is intensely cruel.
‘People’s mental health is at stake, as we found out at Caversham. Who’s managing that? Nobody. Where’s the support for that? There isn’t any.’
Head teacher Flora Cooper (left) arrived at John Rankin School at around 7.30am and indicated that the Ofsted inspection will go ahead
Police outside John Rankin School, Newbury where headteacher Flora Cooper initially told Ofsted inspectors they were not going to be allowed in to the school
A photograph of Ruth Perry attached to the fence outside John Rankin Schools in Newbury
It came as teachers staged a ‘silent protest’ with placards reading ‘RIP Ruth’ outside school gates this morning before Ofsted inspectors went in.
Police stood outside John Rankin School in Newbury, Berkshire, as inspectors from the watchdog arrived to carry out a review of the school, which had threatened to deny them access.
Elsewhere a school removed the watchdog’s rating and logo from its website as unions urged a halt to all inspections this week amid a backlash against Ofsted over the death of a headteacher.
Ruth Perry killed herself after Ofsted downgraded Caversham Primary School, in Reading, Berkshire, from outstanding to inadequate in a report her family branded ‘unfair’ and ‘sensationalist’.
John Rankins School head Flora Cooper arrived at around 7.30am and indicated that the Ofsted inspection would go ahead.
She said: ‘There’s nothing I can do to stop it. but I will say something in greater detail once the inspectors have left at the end of the day.’
A man who said he was on the board of governors came out from the John Rankin Schools and read a statement to reporters at just after 9.30am by the school gates.
He said: ‘The Ofsted inspection is now going to go ahead and the school will fully engage in the process.
‘What I’m going to ask you all is to please if you can move away from the school entrance as much as possible, and from the vicinity to safeguard the children and their families as we start the day because most important is the children, the families and their wellbeing. There’s no further comment at this time.’
A representative from the school read a statement to the media outside John Rankin Schools
Angry parents and carers fumed that their children’s education and daily schedule had been disrupted at a school where the head teacher had threatened to refuse entry to Ofsted inspectors
Pupils at John Rankin School in Newbury arrived for a delayed start of 10am as police stood outside and protesters held placards reading ‘RIP Ruth’
He added inspectors had been at the school from just before 8am and the school day had not started yet. He declined to give any further details about himself or the situation.
Then two PCSOs watched as children entered the school.
The kids – who are starting school today at 9.45am – were met at the gates by Flora, who was wearing a black armband.
She was holding a speaker playing the song Sunshine in my Pocket.
A small number of her supporters and friends of Ruth Perry were also outside the school to show their solidarity. Former teacher Liz, who was holding a placard saying ‘Ruth RIP Perry’ said: ‘Ruth was a wonderful person and teacher whose loss is being felt by the entire community. The Ofsted system has to change. It’s making the lives of teachers a misery, the stress is unbearable.’
Ellen, who previously worked with Ms Perry said: ‘I’ve spoken with her family and they are appreciative of all the support that’s being shown.
A police car was seen outside ahead of the start of the school day on Tuesday
Teachers at John Rankin School, Newbury – some wearing black armbands – stand outside their school as a gesture of solidarity
Staff emerged from the school building to stage a ‘silent protest’ before pupils arrived
Dozens of protesters demonstrated outside the John Rankin School today
Denise Myers (pictured) joined the demonstration outside the school today
‘I worked with Ruth for many years. She was a fantastic teacher and not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. How Ofsted conduct their inspections needs to change. One word can’t sum up an entire school.
‘Tragically in this instance its cost a dedicated teacher her life.’
One mum on the school run, 53, said she backed Flora and called the Ofsted inspectors ‘intensely cruel’.
Katherine Kingdon is a ceramics artist and former secondary school art teacher from Newbury whose two children, aged 13 and 15, used to attend John Rankin School.
She said: ‘I come from a family of teachers, and this is a long time coming.
‘Ofsted is far too divisive.
‘Ofsted comes in, damns a school, and then the parents and teachers leave.
‘It’s too powerful – we need support and collaboration, not just one word judgements.
‘It creates extreme anxiety among teachers. It’s a heck of a lot of extra work – you feel like you put on a façade for Ofsted.
‘I have to show the Ofsted inspector I’ve spoken about x, y and z.
‘It’s not the truth of what that lesson should be about. It’s disruptive to pupil’s learning because I have to jump through hoops.
‘There’s an atmosphere of anxiety when Ofsted come. It’s not a healthy atmosphere.
‘When I had kids and was sharing a class with another teacher.
‘They didn’t follow the instructions. I came to teach my lesson afterwards which was completely different.
‘She’s working to Ofsted, not what the kids need.
‘It’s not supportive.
‘I used to be in school in the countryside that was having difficulties.
‘When Ofsted came in and said ‘things aren’t so good here’, you get parents thinking they will move their kids out, and problem kids end up moving in.
‘There isn’t enough support for the children who are difficult.’
It has now emerged that Emmer Green Primary school removed the Ofsted rating and logo in protest.
Meanwhile John Rankin Infant School in Newbury, Berkshire has allowed inspectors entry to its classroom today after its headteacher threatened to block access, following talks with the council.
National Education Union chief Mary Bousted called it ‘the height of insensitivity’ for Ofsted to inspect schools or colleges this week, while Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, demanded an immediate review of the impact of inspections on the wellbeing of school and college leaders and staff.
Mother-of-two Ruth Perry (pictured) killed herself after Ofsted downgraded Caversham Primary School from outstanding
Emmer Green Primary school removed the Ofsted rating and logo
It comes after Mrs Perry’s sister Ms Walters (pictured together) called on headteachers and unions to ‘boycott Ofsted’
Ms Perry’s family of blasted Ofsted’s ‘unfair’ and ‘sensationalist’ report.
Her sister, Professor Julia Waters, said in a statement on behalf of the family that she was under ‘intolerable pressure’ as she waited for the report that would label her primary school in Reading as inadequate, which is the lowest rating.
She said: ‘We are in no doubt that Ruth’s death was a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection at her school.’
‘We do not for an instant recognise Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ judgement as a true reflection of Ruth’s exemplary leadership or of the wonderful school she led.’
Teachers Ellen (left) and Liz outside the gates to John Rankin Schools in Newbury, Berkshire
The family said that inspector’s conclusions were ‘sensationalist and drawn from scant evidence’ and that for Ms Perry teaching was her ‘passion and vocation’.
They said ‘massive reform’ was needed of the inspection system.
The family added: ‘School inspections should be a welcome and positive contribution to improve standards in education.
‘They need to be genuinely supportive and so to safeguard the health and wellbeing of hard-working, talented, altruistic headteachers and staff.
‘This is a vital part of ensuring the best educational environment for children, who are of course everyone’s priority, as they were for Ruth.’
Ms Perry’s sister Professor Julia Walters called for schools to ‘boycott Ofsted’.
Flora Cooper, executive headteacher of the John Rankin Schools in nearby Newbury has said she will refuse Ofsted
She made the announcement on Twitter and called for other schools to support her
Flora Cooper, executive headteacher of the John Rankin Schools in nearby Newbury, Berkshire, has said she will refuse to let Ofsted in the building during a planned visit today and called on other schools to do the same.
Ms Cooper tweeted: ‘I’ve just had the call. I’ve refused entry. Doing this for everyone for our school staff everywhere!’
However, A West Berkshire Council spokesperson said: ‘An Ofsted inspection at John Rankin School will now go ahead today following discussions between the parties involved yesterday afternoon.
‘We understand that the inspection process can be a busy and stressful time for teachers, governors and school staff.
‘As a council, we work closely with all of our schools to support them through the inspection process and address any individual concerns.’
Ms Perry had been principal at Caversham for 12 years, always working long hours, and her family want the way in which schools are inspected and graded to be changed
Paul Whiteman, (pictured last week) general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, is now urging all policymakers to listen to the ‘important’ message from Mrs Perry’s family regarding their determination that ‘something like this should never happen again’
After a technical change, schools that were previously given outstanding ratings are being inspected for the first time in ten or more years.
Since September last year, 359 schools that had previously been called outstanding were inspected.
Only 140 stayed in the top band and five went from outstanding to inadequate.
Paul Whiteman, the head of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘It cannot be right that we treat dedicated professions in this way. Something has to change.
‘Whilst it should never take a tragedy like this to prompt action, this has to be a watershed moment.
‘The anger and hurt being expressed currently by school staff is palpable. It is essential that all policymakers, including Ofsted, listen and respond.
‘Given the strength of feeling and the need for a period of calm reflection, Ofsted should pause inspections this week.’
His remarks and call to pause inspections this week was echoed by two other unions representing teachers and school leaders.
However, former Ofsted chief said the nation should be proud of the way the watchdog has driven up standards.
Sir Michael Wilshaw told BBC R4: ‘We should be really proud of what has been achieved. Standards have risen hugely over the last ten years.
‘The great majority of schools welcome Ofsted. Headteachers want the hard work they put in to be validated.
‘[Parents] They want a summary judgement. They want to know whether they are sending their children to a good school.’
Rebecca Leek, head of the Suffolk Primary Headteachers Association, told the same show: ‘A schools ends up being defined by one word. Parents would be fine [with a] few sentences.
‘We have no problem with scrutiny and accountability.’
She said head teachers wanted ‘reform for good’.
In an open letter to Ofsted, she previously said members will discuss displaying a photograph of Ms Perry when inspectors visit schools, wearing black armbands and starting inspections with a minute’s silence.
Rebecca Leek, the executive director of the SPHA : ‘We will be considering today if there is anything we want to think about in terms of collective action together.’
She said: ‘I have had strength of feeling from headteachers who would be prepared to do something.
‘I think that Ruth’s death, that tragedy, has given people courage to speak out about things that they have been concerned about for a very long time.’
Primary school leaders in Suffolk will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to take ‘collective action’ during Ofsted inspections following the death of Berkshire headteacher Ruth Perry.
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘It is a legal requirement for schools and nurseries to be inspected by Ofsted, and they have a legal duty to carry out those inspections.
‘Inspections are hugely important as they hold schools to account for their educational standards and parents greatly rely on the ratings to give them confidence in choosing the right school for their child.
‘We offer our deep condolences to the family and friends of Ruth Perry following her tragic death and are continuing to provide support to Caversham Primary School at this difficult time.’
Matthew Purves, Ofsted’s chief for the southeast, said: ‘We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death.
‘Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.’
Julia Waters said her sister was anxious about the ‘countdown’ to the inspection report.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), called it ‘the height of insensitivity’ for Ofsted to inspect schools or colleges this week.
She said: ‘Ofsted should pause all its inspections and reflect upon the unmanageable and counter-productive stress they cause for school leaders, and the impact on leaders.’
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: ‘Ofsted should undertake an immediate review of the impact of inspections on the wellbeing of school and college leaders and staff, and a pause in the inspection cycle would allow for a period in which this could happen.’
Matthew Purves, Ofsted’s regional director for the South East, said: ‘We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death. Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.’
The union leaders spoke out after Ms Waters launched a campaign to reform the ‘punitive’ watchdog, after claiming: ‘Ruth killed herself because of this Ofsted report.’
In a Facebook post, Ms Walters called on headteachers and unions to boycott the watchdog ‘until a thorough, independent review has been conducted and changes implemented’.
An impassioned Ms Walters also called for schools to refuse Ofsted inspectors entry and remove all reference to their school’s ratings online.
She previously told the BBC: ‘This one-word judgement is just destroying 32 years of her vocation, education was her vocation. Thirty-two years summed up in one word, ‘inadequate’.
READ MORE: ‘Ruth killed herself because of this report’: Sister of headteacher who took her own life campaigns to reform ‘punitive’ Ofsted
‘It just preyed on her mind until she couldn’t take it anymore. She was a huge loss, she was my little sister and she was only 53, she had so much more still to give, so much more that she could do.’
The headteacher had an extraordinary bond with the school, having been a pupil there. She returned in 2006 as deputy headteacher, being promoted to principal in 2010.
Mrs Perry’s sister said there is a sense of ‘complete injustice’ about the process behind the inspection and the report.
The inspection report found the school to be good in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be inadequate.
A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has more than 39,000 signatures.
Mrs Perry had been principal at Caversham for 12 years, always working long hours, and her family want the way in which schools are inspected and graded to be changed.
The primary school had been ranked ‘outstanding’ since 2009 until November 15, when three Ofsted inspectors arrived.
This was Caversham’s first inspection in 13 years as previously those which had been ranked so highly were exempt.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, carried out inspection of outstanding schools, downgrading many of them.
Mrs Perry claimed inspectors told senior staff they had seen a boy ‘flossing’ – a popular dance move with tens of millions of children around the world thanks to social media – and that this was evidence of the ‘sexualisation of pupils’ at the school.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: ‘We’ve seen that a headteacher has tweeted their intention to refuse entry to an Ofsted inspection team, and this shows very clearly the strength of feeling following the tragic death of Ms Perry.
In a Facebook post, Ms Walters called on headteachers and unions to boycott the watchdog ‘until a thorough, independent review has been conducted and changes implemented’
It was Caversham Primary School’s first inspection in 13 years as previously those which had been ranked so highly were exempt
‘Many school and college leaders and their staff find inspections and Ofsted judgments very traumatic, and this is often damaging to their wellbeing.
‘This case has brought matters to a head and something has to change. We will be discussing this with Ofsted as a matter of urgency.’
After Mrs Perry’s death, Matthew Purves, Ofsted’s regional director for the South East, said: ‘We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death.
‘Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.’
MailOnline has approached Ofsted for a response to the planned protest.
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