'I would have probably punched' Ofsted staff, says education secretary

Responding to the remarks, the chief inspector of Ofsted said he believed people 'should act with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect'.

The education secretary has said she was “shocked” to hear of a school’s experience with Ofsted, adding she would have “probably punched” staff at the inspectorate.

Speaking during at an annual conference in Liverpool on Friday, Gillian Keegan spoke of a “fantastic” school she had recently visited, but that she was “shocked” by their experience with the watchdog.

“I thought: God if I had met these people, I would have probably punched them. They were really rude.”

Ms Keegan added: “I mean you expect people to be rude to you when you’re a politician, you kind of sign up for that.

“But when you are kind of trying to run a school and educate children and change lives, you don’t expect somebody to come in and not be respectful.”

Responding to the remarks, Sir Martyn Oliver – who took over as chief inspector of Ofsted in January – told the media: “I think people should act with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect on both sides.”

He said he believed the incident Ms Keegan was referring to likely took place under a “previous period”.

Sir Martyn added: “I’m much more interested in a fresh start and calming down tensions. That’s in far better interests for the children and the professionals in the country going forward.”

Ofsted – which has launched a major consultation into its future direction – has come under greater scrutiny in the past year following the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Ms Keegan said the culture of inspection was the “biggest thing” that needed to change following Mrs Perry’s death.

Mrs Perry took her own life after an Ofsted report downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

In December, a coroner concluded the Ofsted inspection on November 15-16 in 2022 “likely contributed” to Mrs Perry’s death.

Sir Martyn launched the watchdog’s “Big Listen” public consultation on Friday which will seek views about Ofsted.

Sir Martyn Oliver took over as chief inspector at Ofsted in January. / Credit: PA

In his first major speech since becoming chief inspector, Sir Martyn told headteachers that he wanted to “mark a new chapter” with the sector, adding that “nothing is off the table”.

He said: “I have been clear with my teams that they must go about their work with professionalism, empathy, courtesy and respect. And I hope, in turn, our inspectors will be received with the same.

“I want to calm any tensions and reduce any friction that has built up in recent months.”

Sir Martyn added: “Ruth’s death was a tragedy and I am determined to do everything that I can to prevent such tragedies happening in the future.

“It should never happen again and no one should ever feel as Ruth did.” The Ofsted chief pledged that “real action” would follow the Big Listen.

His comments came after Professor Julia Waters, sister of Ruth Perry, said Ofsted needed to make a “big change” or its consultation would be a “big waste of time”.

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