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by Keziah Featherstone @keziah70

WomenEd has been reflecting a great deal on the coroner's inquest into the death of the Ruth Perry. The inquest ruled that the Ofsted inspection contributed to the death of head teacher Ruth Perry.

As a charity, we focus on our charitable objectives to support and elevate women educators and leaders across education. We don't tend to comment on global events, regardless of how tragic: Myanmar, Ukraine, Gaza, Maghreb, and, sadly, the list goes on.

As an international organisation, we are mindful that the tragedy that engulfed Ruth Perry, and the involvement of Ofsted in particular, are very English things; not even shared across Britain.

And, of course, we wanted to reflect to respond sensitively and appropriately.

It is very clear that Ruth was a loved and strong leader, one we all would have like to know and work with. The impact of her school's Ofsted inspection, the wait for the report to be published, the fear and worry she experienced and the pressure that has been allowed to grow over the years on headteachers is completely unacceptable.

Sadly, we also know that what Ruth experienced is not an isolated incident. Many in our community have shared similar experiences and feelings. This cannot go on.

Like many organisations, we call for an immediate pause to inspections whilst the process is reviewed and overhauled. We call on the Department for Education to prioritise this in respect for the profession and in honour of Ruth.

The current pernicious school accountability system is doing nothing to encourage leadership ambition in any gender, but particularly women. Where is the next generation of school leaders, or heads, coming from if this is their experience?

Conversely, many in our community have had positive Ofsted experiences; some serve as HMIs or inspectors. We would not wish to discourage any of these women from improving the current system from within. We know that woman in our community inspect with integrity and compassion. Our international community also has experience of many other types of accountability and inspection that are rigorous and do not have such a negative impact. We have a huge range of experiences of more positive and useful accountability and inspection processes and are more than happy to be part of the solution.

Our concerns are not regarding any individual but rather the impact of a system that is no longer fit for purpose.

We will remember Ruth.

On behalf of WomenEd.

Photo reprinted from BBC

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Friday, 01 March 2024

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