‘Teachers miss funerals and go to work sick for Ofsted inspections’

Teachers miss funerals and go to work sick to ensure they are present for Ofsted inspections, a former teacher said at a vigil for the late headmistress Ruth Perry.

Amanda Bentham, who used to teach in Tower Hamlets, east London, has also seen underperforming students being asked not to attend school on inspection days.

Ms Bentham told the PA news agency she had “sleepless nights” from watchdog inspections when she was teaching.

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James Denny, George Binette and Amanda Bentham at the Department of Education (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

She said: “I’ve seen people who have had to take medication to get through Ofsted, people who have missed funerals they should have attended because they felt they had to be there, people arriving at school sick, sick.

“I have seen students being taken out of school or asked not to enter because perhaps their behavior or their results are not what the school wants Ofsted to see.”

She told PA that “everyone” who has ever worked in a school has felt the pressure of inspections.

The former teacher, a member of the National Education Union (NEU), called Ofsted a “toxic body” and supported the union’s petition calling for the control body to be replaced by a fairer system.

Recalling an Ofsted inspection that took place when she was teaching in east London, Ms Bentham told PA that an inspector required an “escort” to escort her from the car park to the school because he thought it was “very dangerous “.

“That doesn’t really build trust among the staff. They don’t feel that a person who doesn’t trust the community she goes through to get to the school can have valid judgment about the school,” Ms Bentham added.

James Denny, a father from Reading, organized the vigil but did not know Mrs Perry.

He told PA he knew of a teacher who suffered a stroke after an Ofsted inspection.

He added: “Today the regime is simply intolerable and makes our school leaders and our schoolteachers in school for long hours. They have to neglect themselves, they neglect their families just to make their school suitable for Ofsted inspection.”

Mr Denny also said he knows “former Ofsted inspectors” who say “the change is due”.

NEU Assistant General Secretary Niamh Sweeney delivered a petition to the Department for Education to replace the watchdog with a “supportive, effective and fair” system.

She told PA that mentioning the word “Ofsted” to teachers, school leaders or students will create fear and anxiety.

“If you mention the word Ofsted, even to children, if you mention the word Ofsted to seasoned professionals, people who have been teaching for 20 years, there is a physical and emotional reaction,” he said.

“It generates fear, it generates anxiety. Teachers and school leaders have sleepless nights over a trial, a one-word trial over a two-day period that can end your career and label a school community.”

The NEU calls for Ofsted to be “dismantled” and replaced with a “completely new system”.

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Niamh Sweeney outside the Department of Education (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

The petition, signed by more than 45,000 people, predates Ms Perry’s death.

He claims that teachers and school leaders work under the “shadow” cast by the watchdog and that the workload generated by Ofsted is a “major factor” in “appalling” teacher retention rates that “ruin” the English education.

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