Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP
Secretary of State for Education
House of Commons
26th March 2023
Dear Secretary of State,
Headrest is a helpline that from October 2020 has offered free confidential wellbeing support for headteachers. Those of us who operate the helpline would urge you, as Secretary of State for Education, to read this article from an investigation by The Observer in which they uncover a link between Ofsted reports and heart attacks, strokes and nervous breakdowns.
The overwhelming majority of calls we are currently receiving at Headrest are concerns about Ofsted. Good headteachers are retiring early because they are not prepared to face the high stakes inspection regime nor subject themselves to the variability of standards in inspectors; others are devastated by an inspection experience that they feel has been unfair but is also beyond challenge because they, in our view rightly, perceive Ofsted appeals/complaints procedures to be opaque; and several are leaving school leadership after an Ofsted because the high stakes nature of inspection leaves them feeling professionally undermined, unsupported, and/or burnt out.
It is Headrest’s belief, based on the above, that Ofsted needs to be paused (other than for serious safeguarding concerns) whilst the model of school inspection is reviewed and amended. We cannot afford to lose school leaders at current rates nor should we accept the fear of Ofsted’s current inspection modus operandi being a disincentive to those who might otherwise consider fulfilling such a role.
We believe that if both the government and Ofsted fail to heed the warnings of teaching unions, and others who support school leader wellbeing, there will be further deaths where school inspection will be a major contributory factor. We are thus contacting you directly so that if such a death were to occur we can be secure that we alerted you, as the appropriate authority, to what we believe to be an ongoing danger.
Additionally, we would be grateful if your response to the concerns we raise is put in writing. We need to be candid and state that if your reply fails to address the concerns we raise we will, we believe justifiably, be prepared to share your response publicly in the event of any future school staff death where Ofsted is deemed a contributory factor.