The Rt Hon, Nadhim Zahawi MP
Secretary of State for Education
Great Smith Street
21st October 2020
Dear Secretary of State,
OFSTED’s role in undermining school leader well-being
Headrest has offered a free and confidential well-being telephone support service for headteachers, executive headteachers and Multi Academy Trust CEOs for the last 12 months. Calls are responded to by four experienced former headteachers with successful backgrounds in supporting headteachers and as National Leaders in Education (NLEs) This letter is also being shared with the Shadow Education team, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, and sections of the media.
The school leaders who call our helpline are very concerned that many outside of schools labour under the misapprehension that COVID is no longer impacting on schools operationally. However, those who contact us are adamant that things are far from “back to normal”. Indeed, managing COVID related issues is proving a constant source of anxiety and stress to school leaders. Many cite that the pressures are greater now than in the earlier stages of the pandemic. School leaders are finding themselves having to manage high rates of staff and student absence; teach the classes of absent colleagues; restructure class groupings at exceptionally short notice; and retain a high profile around their schools so as to support the well-being of students and staff in these most extraordinary of times. We find it hard to envisage how any national policymaker can think reinstating school inspections at this time would be anything other than a stress inducing process that will damage the well-being of school leaders and their staff teams.
The stresses, fears and concerns articulated to us can be heart rending. It is certainly clear to us that in these most abnormal of times the looming pressure of OFSTED is a major stressor that damages the well-being of many school leaders and their staff teams. Below is a summary of some of the key themes and concerns that have been shared with us in recent months:
In most instances the calls we receive can involve a combination of several of the above.
In conclusion, we demand that OFSTED’s graded school inspections should be stopped. We believe at this time school leaders and their staff teams need empathy not inspectorial scrutiny; support not OFSTED judgements; and, most of all, they need national policymakers to take decisions that reduce, rather than exacerbate, stress levels.
In your role as Secretary of State for Education we feel it imperative that you are fully aware of the concerns we are receiving.
cc. Amanda Spielman, HMCI, Kate Green MP, Shadow Secretary of State, Robin Walker MP, Peter Kyle MP
You can read more about this in the TES article that covered the story.
As soon as we receive a reply, we will post it here.