Michael Gove backs Ofsted inspections in face of criticism after death of Ruth Perry | Politics News

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove has said Ofsted plays a “vital role” in assessing school performance.

Mr Gove, a former education secretary, gave his backing to the schools inspector despite there being renewed calls for it to be reformed, and even abolished following the death of a headteacher.

Ruth Perry, who ran Caversham Primary School in Reading, took her own life while waiting for a critical Ofsted report that downgraded her school from outstanding to inadequate due to “safeguarding” issues.

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Inspectors gave the school the lowest possible rating despite the fact it was judged as “good” in every category bar leadership and management, where it was rated “inadequate”.

Ms Perry’s family have said her death was the direct result of the pressure put on her by the “deeply harmful” inspection.

Asked by Sophy Ridge whether Ofsted inspections were placing too much stress on teachers, Mr Gove said: “Well, the first thing is obviously when you’re talking about circumstances where a clearly public-spirited, talented, passionately committed person has taken their life, you have to have respect for her example and her family.

“So it’s important not to be too political when we’re reflecting on her passing.

“I do think, however, that Ofsted plays an vital role in providing information about how schools are performing well, which we can learn from, and which schools are not performing well, and therefore need help and intervention.”

Pressed on whether the four grades used by Ofsted (outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate) were a “blunt instrument”, the Cabinet minister said he thought they were “important”.

However, he said “we do need to reflect and look at” so-called “limiting judgements”, whereby a school can be found to be inadequate overall because it is rated as such in the safeguarding category.

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Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department that inspects schools and other education services.

Following the death of Ms Perry, Ofsted has faced calls to halt inspections.

A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has gathered more than 110,000 signatures.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said Ms Perry’s death “was met with great sadness at Ofsted” but declined to halt inspections, saying they played an “important part” in maintaining standards in education.

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Schools have also been removing logos and references to Ofsted ratings from their websites in solidarity with Ms Perry and headteachers have said they planned to stage peaceful protests – including wearing black clothing and armbands and displaying photographs of Ms Perry around buildings – when Ofsted inspections take place.

The National Education Union has also called for Ofsted to be replaced with a new agency.

Mr Gove said he believed Ofsted did a “great job” and that Ms Spielman was “committed to supporting teachers to do better”.

“One of my worries is that some of the people who are attacking Ofsted object to transparency, are anti-high standards, and what we need to do to is recognise that education has improved in the last 13 years and the role of Ofsted under successive chief inspectors has been absolutely central to that,” he said.