Inspections harming school leaders’ mental health, finds report

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A new schools inspection system is needed which prioritises the wellbeing of teaching staff and schoolchildren, the sister of headteacher, Ruth Perry, who took her own life has said.

Professor Julia Waters called for “radical reform” of what she called Ofsted’s “punitive and fatally-flawed school inspection system” after a damning report revealed how inspections are harming staff mental health.

Education Support surveyed over 3,000 education staff for its seventh Teacher Wellbeing Index during 2023. 75 per cent of schoolteachers and 82 per cent of senior leaders said that inspections negatively impacted their mental health and wellbeing. 73 per cent believed they were not fit for purpose.

82 per cent of senior leaders said that inspections negatively impacted their mental health and wellbeing. Photograph: iStock

Over a third of teachers (36 per cent) are experiencing burnout – up by 9 per cent on 2022 figures. Forty-six per cent of senior leaders said they had felt tearful, 37 per cent suffered recurring headaches and 17 per cent had had panic attacks in the past year.

Ruth Perry took her own life in January after being told the school where she was headteacher was being downgraded from outstanding to inadequate.

Her family believes stress associated with the inspection was a major factor in her death.

Perry's sister, Professor Julia Waters, said: “Ruth was not the first headteacher or teacher to take her own life following an Ofsted inspection. I am determined that she will be the last.

“That 82% of senior leaders state that inspections have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing is a shocking indictment of long-standing government inaction to address this important concern.”

Sinéad Mc Brearty, Chief Executive of Education Support commented: “These are not findings that anyone wants to see. Our education workforce is stressed and unhappy at work. Such high levels of burnout, overwork and loneliness will not lead to a world class education system.

"Children and young people need to be surrounded by energised and committed teachers to give them the best chances in life. Instead, the reality of working life in education is causing talented educators to leave the profession in their droves. We can and must do better," she added.

Read the full teacher wellbeing index 2023 here