Coronavirus: Ofsted sorry for death guidance 'distress'

The inspectorate's updated guidance on deferring inspections in light of the outbreak had mentioned what it would do if a headteacher died

John Roberts

Ofsted has apologised for guidance it updated last night which referred to the death of a headteacher.

An Ofsted director has apologised after the watchdog published updated Coronavirus guidance that referred to headteachers dying.

The watchdog had updated its guidance to allow schools to defer inspections as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

A section of the guidance said that, in the case of illness or death of the head, the relevant director would determine whether the inspection would still take place.

This text, which has now been removed, was actually part of the inspectorate’s existing guidance on the deferral of inspections, which predated the coronavirus outbreak.

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A section of guidance on deferring Ofsted inspections which cause offence last night.

However, its inclusion in the updated guidance caused anger on social media last night.

Chris Jones, Ofsted’s director of corporate strategy said: “We've updated our guidance on inspection deferrals tonight. We want to ensure that we are able to defer inspections for any schools impacted by Covid-19. The language here is historic and needs to be changed, which we will. I'm sorry for any distress caused.”

Ofsted has said that school inspections will be able to be deferred as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The apology comes after the watchdog also received criticism yesterday for a tweet in which it said it was "business as usual" for its inspection teams.

Ofsted said: “We’re operating business as usual across our inspection/regulatory work, in line with government advice. We’re monitoring the situation closely and in daily contact with DfE.”

Many people have replied, calling on Ofsted to suspend inspections as schools deal with the outbreak.

Posting on social media last night, Mr Jones said: “I understand many people asking us to suspend inspection.

'We're doing as much as we can to limit the impact on schools. Ultimately, until legislation changes, we have to follow the advice and the law.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, today called for routine Ofsted inspections to be halted.

Speaking to press after his speech at ASCL's annual conference, in Birmingham, he said the message from Ofsted that it was business as usual from the inspectorate will feel "tin-eared" to heads.

He said: "People who are facing unprecedented circumstances in their schools.

"People who are trying to keep pupils calm...thinking 'have I got enough teachers for next week?', that is not business as usual. So to see the at odds with the activities taking place in school, with the reality of school life, you can understand why people felt cross about that."

Mr Barton said the inclusion of the reference to a head teacher dying in the updated guidance about the coronavirus was "unfortunate."

He added: "Lots of us are having to do things quickly at the moment and that was an example where the guidance, which in a previous set of circumstances would have been fine, suddenly looks insensitive.

"But I wouldn't describe that as them being insensitive, it's probably in fraught times responding quickly to something."


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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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