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School leaders and DfE respond to coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report 

The Department for Education has sent the coroner its response to the Regulation 28 Prevention of Future Deaths report, following headteacher Ruth Perry’s inquest. 

The department said that work is ongoing between them, Ofsted, local authorities and trusts to ensure all headteachers are supported during the inspection process. They said there is also a further commitment to ensure schools and inspectors are aware of the wellbeing help headteachers can access, including the recently expanded £1.5million wellbeing support.  

The department said it is committed to helping to avoid future tragedies through working with local authorities and school trusts to ensure that appropriate support is made available to school leaders following an adverse inspection result. 

The DfE is working with Ofsted to review how judgements are made for schools that are found to be inadequate solely on safeguarding grounds, as Caversham Primary School was. Where the safeguarding issues are shown to have been resolved quickly, no further intervention will take place. 

Safeguarding guidance in the department will also be reviewed and a call for evidence will be launched in the spring, asking the sector for views on how to go further to support school leaders on safeguarding.  

Two years ago, the Department for Education launched the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter – a public commitment to the wellbeing and mental health of everyone working in education.  

They said that, as part of this, the expansion of the wellbeing support is a new investment to deliver a three-year mental health and wellbeing support package for school and college leaders, providing professional supervision and counselling to at least 2,500 leaders.  

In addition, the Education Support which provides wellbeing help for school leaders was this year doubled in size to support an additional 500 heads by March 2024.  

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Ruth Perry’s death was a tragedy and the coroner’s findings made clear that lessons need to be learned.  

“That’s why I have worked closely with Ruth Perry’s sister, former colleagues and friends over the past year, to listen and make important changes to inspections with Ofsted to secure a legacy for Ruth. 

“We are working to ensure inspections keep children safe, whilst also prioritising the safety and wellbeing of school leaders serving in our schools through expanded wellbeing support for leaders. 

“I hope lots of teachers and parents take part in Ofsted’s Big Listen to further evolve inspection practice so Ofsted continues to drive up school standards.” 

Commenting in response to HM Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools in England, said: “There is no doubt that we have seen a welcome change in tone from Ofsted this year, and this response demonstrates an apparent willingness from the HMCI to listen and work closely with the profession. 

“Some of the early actions that Ofsted have taken in response to the coroner’s report are a small step in the right direction. However, much more needs to be done if the inspectorate is to fully address the concerns of school leaders. 

“Some of these proposals have the potential to improve certain aspects of inspection, but Ofsted also urgently need start addressing the underlying issues that are causing the stress and pressure on schools, rather just tackling the symptoms. 

“We hope that when the HMCI says that ‘nothing is off the table’ when it comes to the future of inspection, that he really means it. 

“NAHT has compiled a thorough report into the changes necessary to make our inspection system fair, proportionate and humane. This includes widespread support from school leaders for the removal of one-word judgements. 

“These, and other long-term recommendations for change must be listened to if the education profession is to regain its trust in the inspectorate. We stand ready to help the new HMCI in delivering that change. 

NAHT remains of the view that far-reaching fundamental reform is still required. This must the start of that process, not the end of it.” 

Regarding the timing of the report, Mr Whiteman said: “We have been assured by Ofsted that those schools expecting inspection next week will not be expected to read this full report over the weekend. The timing of its release and their inspections will be taken into account.” 

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