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Dame Christine Gilbert to lead independent review into Ofsted’s response to Ruth Perry tragedy

Dame Christine Gilbert to lead independent review into Ofsted’s response to Ruth Perry tragedy

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, today announced that he has appointed Dame Christine Gilbert to lead an independent learning review into Ofsted’s response to the tragic death of Ruth Perry.

The independent review was among the measures detailed in Ofsted’s response to the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report, published in January. The review will consider:

  • the actions Ofsted took in response to hearing about the death of Ruth Perry
  • Ofsted’s communications, its engagement with stakeholders and information-sharing within Ofsted regarding the incident
  • the support Ofsted offered internally to staff, including inspectors, and how its approach was informed by clearly defined policies

The review will not examine the inspection of Caversham Primary School in November 2022, nor the judgements it made.

Dame Christine spent 18 years in schools as a teacher and secondary headteacher, and has worked in London boroughs as both director of education and chief executive. She served as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector at Ofsted from 2006 until 2011, during which time she brought 3 different inspectorates together to create a new organisation. She has led or participated in several service reviews, mostly in education but also including Baroness Casey’s review of the Metropolitan Police, published last year. 

Dame Christine will begin her review this month. She will have access to relevant internal records and be able to speak with any member of Ofsted staff she chooses. She will also have the opportunity to meet Ruth Perry’s family and speak to them about the review. Ofsted will assist Dame Christine in obtaining any specialist advice she requires, such as in the areas of mental health and well-being.

Dame Christine will produce a written report on her findings later this year. The report will include any recommendations for changes to Ofsted’s internal policies and processes for responding to tragic incidents. Ofsted will respond to these recommendations as part of the wider response to the Big Listen.

Dame Christine Gilbert said:

“The death of Ruth Perry was a deeply sad and shocking event. Ofsted has accepted that it is vitally important for it to learn from this tragedy and has asked me to help them do that.

“I intend to take a very detailed and thorough look at all areas of Ofsted’s work – from the moment the Caversham inspection ended, through to the conclusion of the Coroner’s inquest. I will scrutinise the approach taken and advise on future actions and revisions needed to improve Ofsted’s policies and processes for dealing with any tragic incident.

“Importantly, I will hear firsthand from the family of Ruth Perry to gain a better understanding of the impact of Ofsted’s work. I would like to thank them in advance for agreeing to engage with my review.”

Sir Martyn Oliver said:

“I am very grateful to Dame Christine for agreeing to lend her valuable experience and expertise to leading this important review. She has a wealth of experience in schools, in inspection, and in undertaking a range of reviews. I have no doubt that her insights will help us to reflect on, and learn from, our response to Ruth Perry’s death.

“I look forward to receiving her recommendations for improving our policies and practice. Her review will complement the findings from our Big Listen and help us build an Ofsted that is trusted by the professionals we inspect and regulate, as well as the children, parents and carers we are here to serve.”

Sector Response

Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“This independent review is a vital piece of work. NAHT knows Christine Gilbert well and she is a widely respected and knowledgeable figure in education. We believe that she will have the insight and determination to carry out a comprehensive review of Ofsted’s response to the tragic death of Ruth Perry.

“However, it is important to confront head-on the concern that some might express about a former chief inspector reviewing the work of Ofsted. It is therefore crucial that the review demonstrates a robust level of independence and impartiality.

“This is even more important on the back of the Big Listen exercise which has disappointed many within the profession. Ofsted must demonstrate that it is serious about making the changes that are long overdue.”

Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“A review into Ofsted’s response to the death of Ruth Perry – and the Coroner’s findings – will only take us forward if it is impartial and independent. The review should be carried out by someone from outside Ofsted, rather than a former Chief Inspector, so that it has the trust of the profession, and we can all have faith in the process.

‘Ofsted creates a culture across schools and colleges which is a factor in severe retention problems, especially in disadvantaged areas, ill-health, and unsustainable workloads.

‘The tragic suicide of Ruth Perry should have been a watershed moment for Ofsted.

‘We hope that the review will hear from a wide range of leaders and teachers as this needs to be a moment for a genuine change in direction in school evaluation and inspection”.

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